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 + Open : 2012 - Fargo, ND

June 2012 - Fargo, ND

"You know more of a road by having traveled it than by all the conjectures and descriptions in the world."
      - William Hazlitt

My first long trip on my Darkhorse was planned long in advance. This was because from the first day I got it, the bike did not run right. The stock ECM map just was not calibrated or set up to run at the altitude here in Colorado.

I contacted Indian of Fargo (the dealer I bought my Darkhorse from) about this problem, which considered dangerous, but got nothing in response. This was shortly after Polaris bought the brand, but they were new to the game and so there was nothing they could do, and my dealer of little help. What Indian of Fargo did offer was a home-grown aftermarket solution.

The Fargo solution was to change out the exhaust system, augment the intake so the engine would get more air, and use a Power Commander V to re-map the ECM. After some back and forth about this problem I decided to have Fargo's lead mechanic, Joe Karvonken, implement their solution. I selected a Vance & Hines Pro-Pipe HS exhaust system and the rest was handled by Joe.

Joe ordered the exhaust system and once everything required for the build was waiting at the Fargo dealer, I was on my way. It was June when I left, which is really not the best time to visit the great white north because that's their rainy season.

As I recall, I left on a Saturday morning and rode straight up Interstate 25 to Billings Montana. I stayed at a hotel called the "Dude Rancher Lodge" in downtown Billings. It was a really nice place, old fashioned but comfortable and nice.

The next day I headed out on Interstate 94 and rode that all the way into Fargo. That night and for the remainder of my time in Fargo I stayed at a Super 8 motel near the Fargo dealer.

On Monday I rode my Darkhorse to the Fargo dealer where I met Bob Bucklin, aka. "Snow Goer" who was the General Manager there, and Joe the mechanic wizard that was going to do the work on my bike. While the work was being done on my bike I rented a car and drove around Fargo; there wasn't much to see. Rain set in later that day, and I was glad to be in a car because of it.

After the work was done on my bike I took off on US-10 and rode around the Detroit Lakes area. This is a really beautiful area and is great for motorcycle riding. The performance increase with the changes Joe made were, and remain, amazing. My Darkhorse sounds amazing and has more power than I'll ever need. The stumbling due to high altitude has mostly gone away as well.

My way home was via US-52 to Minneapolis where I stopped in at another Indian dealer. From there I rode Interstate 35 to Des Moines, where I connected with Interstate 80 going west. I spent the night just outside of Omaha NE.

The next day I stopped in to the Indian of Omaha where I had planned to have my rear tire replaced. It was there I met Justin in person (we had previously talked over the phone and via email). It's nice to meet a Indian dealer GM that actually is as addicted to the brand as the rest of us are.

After leaving Indian of Omaha I made my way home via Interstate 80 to Interstate 76, then on to Interstate 25 south to home. It was a short but rewarding and enjoyable trip.


 + Open : 2013 - Northwest

June 2013 - Northwest

"Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road."
      - Jack Kerouac

This trip was intended to be leisurely, not the mad dash out and back as is the usual for my rides out to California. My plan was to only ride between 400 and 500 miles a day, as opposed to 800 miles which was my norm.

Out Day 1: Monument Co. to Jackson WY. (560 miles)

I'm always in a rush to leave, and reluctant to return. The call of the open road, the siren's song of adventure forever sings in my blood. Left to my own I would be a human tumbleweed, forever on the move and never taking root anywhere. To move is to live, and to live is to see and experience the world.

This day I would start to move once more, finding adventure through the experience of the open road. My journey would first take me north to Wyoming and the Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, then further north to Montana and Glacier National Park's "Going to the Sun Road." From there I would turn west riding my Kings Mountain Indian Darkhorse through the panhandle of Idaho and down the Columbia River gorge out to the coast of the Pacific Ocean. From there I would head south following the Pacific Coast Highway to the San Francisco bay area where I would visit my daughter and her family.

So it was that I found myself on that day with my bags packed in the house and drinking my first cup of coffee with my wife. I didn't want to seem anxious to leave, but she could probably tell that I was. Still though, I drank my coffee slowly until about 7:30am when I told her I needed to get on the road.

To quote Ursula K. LeGuin, "To be whole is to be part; the true voyage is to return." With that in mind, I strapped my luggage on my bike, got my leathers on, kissed my wife good-bye, and was on my way.

I fueled up on my way to the freeway, then headed north on Interstate 25. The day was clear and bright, and I was bound for Jackson WY. My first gas stop was at Laramie WY, where I also paused long enough to pick up a dealer pin from the local HD shop for my friend Ben who collects them. From there I hit Interstate 80 and turned west.

Riding in Wyoming means that you have to cope with a lot of wind, and I battled a head wind all the way to Rock Springs WY, where I fueled up before heading north on US 191. Once off the interstate the head wind changed to a cross wind. As I rode past signs warning of high winds, I slowed down a bit and kept both hands on the handlebars. Dust and grit kicked up by the winds blasted my face and somehow managed to get beyond my sun glasses. Grit got into my eyes, but blinking cured this problem and so I continued to press onward.

Beyond the pleasant town of Pinedale, I followed US 191 and turned right to travel through the mountains toward the tourist mecca of Jackson WY. The wind died down once I got into the mountains, and the country became green and beautiful again. I followed the Hoback and Snake rivers into Jackson, where I paused for my evening meal at McDonald's.

Towns such as Jackson are usually clogged with vacuous and oblivious tourists, and I was not to be disappointed in this regard. However at least twice as I was riding through town I saw people stop and point to my Indian Darkhorse as I rode by, so exceptions to this rule do occur.

That night found me several miles outside of town at the Flat Creek Lodge. This is a quiet and peaceful place that hosts a mini-mart and a gas station. It was a pleasant evening and I felt relaxed and good. The wistful song of the road had been answered and I was on my way.

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Out Day 2: Jackson WY to Browning MT. (550 miles)

The next morning I sat on the curb in front of my motorcycle and ate my breakfast of a sweet pastry and a large cup of coffee purchased at the Mini-Mart at the Flat Creek Lodge. The morning was clear and cool, and the air was still. There was a dampness to it that brought an edge to the otherwise sunny morning. The morning dew had covered the seat of my Darkhorse, but a towel borrowed from my motel room cured that problem.

Packing up for the day ahead is easy when you carry little. I carry a large plastic bag to separate my dirty clothes form the clean, and this is stuffed around my laptop to keep it safe. All that I have can be crammed into a simple duffle bag and bungeed to the back of a motorcycle in minutes. Once the luggage was in place, I got my leathers on then gassed up at the station at the Inn, and then was on my way.

My route took me north along US 89 below the western slope of the Teton Range. My wife, who is of Dutch ancestry, once told me that her Father laughed and laughed when he learned of the name of these mountains because in the Dutch language, Grand Teton means Big Tits. These are among the most rugged mountains I've ever seen. They seem to have erupted from the earth just yesterday; with serrated edges so sharp they would seem to cut anyone one to pieces who attempts to climb them.

I usually don't take many pictures when I travel, mostly because it involves stopping. I did make a few exceptions that day and stopped here and there on my way north to take photos of the scenery. On more than one occasion, watching from a distance I saw people exit their cars intent on photographing the scenery, then pause as they saw my Indian Darkhorse. They would then stop and take a picture of my bike before proceeding on to take other photographs. I guess the bike being noticed and admired by others is one of the perks of riding an Indian.

I stopped to see the "Old Faithful" Geyser, which was crowded with pedestrians, and the parking lot was packed. While waiting for the geyser to erupt, I visited the tourist store there to buy a couple of pins for myself. Old Faithful was dependable, but unspectacular, and after the eruption I got gas and continued on my way.

Following US 191 eventually brought me to Belgrade and Interstate 90, where I turned west. Soon I turned off on US 287 and continued north toward Helena. On Interstate 15 I got gas again just past Helena and continued north on US 287 once it branched away from the interstate. It was then and there that I entered the great vast emptiness of Montana.

I rode for miles and miles and saw little or no sign of civilization. I did pass through a few small villages here and there hosting a bar and perhaps a gas station, but nothing more. Riding through those rocky hills thinly covered by dry grass made me feel like the last man on earth.

At one point I came to a stop sign at an intersection of roads stretching to the horizon in all directions. Across from me, on the road I intended to take was a flashing construction sign that read: "Major construction ahead, motorcycles strongly advised to take alternate route." But I had no other route, and not enough gas or daylight to find another, and so I rode ahead. The road got very difficult for a while, it became like riding up a dry river bed floored by smooth round stones. I stopped on several occasions to survey the road ahead and seek out the best route to take. My Darkhorse skidded and slid on the stones here and there, but with patience and careful riding I made it through.

Eventually I found Browning MT, and my hotel for the night. Browning is the capital of the Flat Head Indian Reservation, where I stayed at the Western Motel, which is the only lodging in town. The motel was clean and run by friendly people, but the area had no cell phone service and only a single channel worked on the television.

For dinner I walked down the street and bought a Subway sandwich. I noticed there were a lot of dogs loose in town and remembered hearing that this was common on Indian Reservations. On the way back to my motel room I noticed a group of young men out in front of the town ceremonial lodge, where they were being instructed by an older man speaking in a language I did not recognize. I realized that this must be their native language. I kept a respectful distance and did not stare, I was the stranger here and it's simply impolite to consider a spectacle what other people do in their homes.

Later that night I sat out on the porch in front of my room and listened to the native singing and chanting coming from the nearby ceremonial lodge. What I heard was indecipherable, but also relaxing and beautiful. Staring up at the clear star filled sky above I reflected upon all the wonders that life offers and tried to soak it all in.

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Out Day 3: Browning MT to Clarkston WA (530 miles)

I was supposed to end the day in Kennewick WA, but it didn't quite turn out that way.

I awoke in Browning MT to another cool, clear, and sunny day. My first destination of the day was to be one of the real highlights of my trip, Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. I had been over this road about 20 years before, and was really looking forward to riding it again. My first task of the day was to get to St. Mary, which is the east entrance to the road, so to be sure I had the correct directions I asked at the motel desk as I was checking out.

Although the young man I spoke with was every polite and kind, he did not speak English very well, and so the directions he gave were confusing. According to his directions, I was to go out of town on a different road than I expected, then ride until I came to a "T" intersection and then turn left and follow the road. Unfortunately I did not actually understand what this young man meant when he described what I thought of as a "T" intersection.

So I first gassed up, and then followed the route he suggested I take, and rode, and rode, and rode; never coming to a "T" intersection. I nearly ended up in Canada. Eventually I turned around and headed back toward Browning; thinking that I would follow my original directions. However about half way back I came to an intersection I can best describe not so much as a "T" but more as a "Y", with a road branching out to the west. I made my turn there, followed the road, and eventually found my way to St. Mary and the east entrance of Going-to-the-Sun Road.

I gassed up again in St. Mary, then entered the park and started up the mountain following Going-to-the-Sun Road. This is truly a spectacular ride which I recommend to anyone. Streams flow out of the mountains and fall in incredible water falls on one side, then tumbled through culverts under the road to emerge and crash down cliffs to the valleys below. The glaciers, mountains, rivers and streams, as well as the forests and incredible views are breath taking. It is a ride that must be taken to be believed.

There is a place to pull off at the top of the mountain at Logan Pass, but every time I have been through there, the parking lot has been too crowded to even find a parking place for a motorcycle. One of these days I'll get lucky enough and be able to stop there, but that was not to happen on this trip. Once past Logan Pass, I rode down a long narrow road with the mountain on one side and a sheer drop off on the other. For me, this is the most beautiful part of the ride.

You can usually expect some construction delays somewhere along the road. I suggest anyone considering this ride to be prepared for this, and when stopped just shut your bike down and enjoy your surroundings.

Once outside the western boundary of the park I got gas and then picked up US 93 and headed south; it was a long, straight, and dusty ride that eventually took me to Interstate 90 where I headed west.

Riding Interstate 90 through the Idaho panhandle was one of the real pleasures of this trip. The towering, heavily forested mountains are really quite beautiful. I did pass by a large fire high in the mountains at one point, and it was difficult to not be distracted by the helicopters hauling water up to battle the flames. The city of Coeur d'Alene is itself a treat due to its location next to a deep blue water lake.

Just past Spokane I made a disastrously wrong turn. I had intended to follow US 395 to Kennewick where I would spend the night. What I did instead was to turn off on US 195 and head south into the western Washington wheat farming region. I suppose I saw the highway number "95" and thought that was the one. This was another road that just kept following until I realized that something was amiss. The complete revelation occurred when I saw a sign reading that I was crossing into the state of Idaho, and by that time is far too late to turn around.

It was already late afternoon when I rode down the mountain that took me into the Snake River Valley and the town of Lewiston. I stopped for gas then purchased a map at a convenience store, and it was only then that I realized the significance of my wrong turn. I considered riding into the night to make up for this error. However the road from Lewiston to Kennewick is a lonely one and unknown to me, which could be treacherous. I had actually started on my way, but saw a Motel 6 in the neighboring town of Clarkston and decided to stay the night there. I would compose myself, decide on the best route, and start out early the next morning.

There was a nice family owned restaurant adjacent to my motel, and I ate dinner there. Later I consulted my maps and decided that my wrong turn would cost me an additional day to get to California. That evening I called both my daughter and my wife that night and informed them that I would arrive in California a day behind schedule.

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Out Day 4: Clarkston WA to Yachats OR (490 miles)

After drinking several cups of coffee at Motel 6, I set out riding through the cold and damp air as I followed the Snake River on my way west on US 12 toward Walla Walla WA. Soon the road took me away from the river and I was once again riding through a landscape sprinkled with scattered farms. It was a pleasant ride, but the clouds overhead were threatening rain.

I soon veered south of Kennewick and eventually hooked up with US 30 / Interstate 84. This highway would take me along the Columbia River Gorge. This area was reported to be scenic, and I was looking forward to it. The ride along the river was enjoyable, but paled compared to what I had experienced in Yellowstone and on Going-to-the-Sun road. The river and landscape were beautiful though and I still recommend it to anyone riding through the area.

The previous night my wife had strongly advised me to stay away from large cities for the remainder of my trip. She was concerned because George Zimmerman had just been found not guilty of murder in his self-defense killing of a young man in Florida. Riots had been threatened, and several people in cities across the country had already been beaten and injured. So my intent was to follow her advice.

Near Portland OR I got on the Interstate 205 loop and swung down to pick up Interstate 5 without getting too close to the city. Other than the river views, riding through the Portland area is pretty much the same as riding around Sacramento, or Denver, or any other large city. Traffic is tight and people drive too fast, just as they do elsewhere.

I got gas south of Portland, and then followed Interstate 5 south to Albany where I picked up US 20, which would take me out to the coast. In Corvallis I had some trouble finding highway signs, and I got a bit turned around. I back tracked through town and tried the route again but still didn't see signs directing me to the highway I wanted. I eventually just gave up and followed my instincts.

My instincts proved true, and so I found my way. The ride through the coastal mountains on the way to the coast was much nicer than the route along the Columbia River, and I enjoyed it quite a lot. Ultimately I found my way to Newport OR, and from there headed south on the Pacific Coast Highway, US 101.

As is usual when riding the PCH, it was a foggy ride through very cold and damp air. Wearing leathers is the best for this, and so I stopped and put on my chaps and leather jacket. Once dressed appropriate to the environment, the ride was really enjoyable.

It was starting to get late in the afternoon when I entered the town of Yachats OR, and so I started looking for a place to spend the night. The first place I saw was called the Dublin House; it was a small locally run motel that looked interesting, so I pulled in. The people at the Dublin House were friendly and my room was huge and comfortable.

Across the street from the Dublin House was a family owned restaurant called LeRoy's Blue Whale. Their food was incredible, and their Blue Berry Cheese Cake dessert was simply amazing.

It had been a good day, and as I turned in that night I was more relaxed and happy than I had been in a long time.

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Out Day 5: Yachats OR to Eureka CA (290 miles)

Riding the Pacific Coast Highway is an experience that should not be rushed. The brilliant ocean crashing on the sands on one side, the rolling forested hills on the other, the cool fresh air rushing across your skin; the entire experience can consume the senses.

The aim of riding is to experience the spaces between where you start and end. When riding the PCH, do so at an easy comfortable pace, don't hurry, and pull over and let pass those that are in a rush and are intent on missing out on what life is all about.

It was foggy and cool when I left Yachats that morning, and the air was damp enough to form droplets on the windshield of my Indian Darkhorse. It was a beautiful day to be alive. Along the Oregon stretch of the PCH, stunning Art Deco bridges span the rivers that wind their way out of the coastal mountains. These bridges are a wonder, and themselves are reason enough to make the trip out to see them worthwhile.

By the time I reached Gold Beach the fog had burned off as it frequently does, and the day was sunny and bright. There was a cool breeze rolling in from the ocean, and the air smelled wonderful. On that midweek early summer's day, traffic was light. RV's can frequently clog the two lane highway, but for once I was not hampered by this.

I stopped frequently along my way for photographs, and once for a cup of coffee at a café along the highway. My Indian drew spectators everywhere I went. People on other motorcycles or driving in cars would come over and strike up a conversation. In all it was a pleasant lazy day's ride down the coast; one of those days when you find all life's tensions and problems lost and forgotten in the back of your mind, or blown away in the wind rushing over the top of your windshield.

On long rides, once the wind has washed your mind free of the sludge of daily troubles and concerns, a sense of serene clarity falls upon you. Your breathing slows; you can also sense that your heart beats at a more relaxed pace. Your mind sort of goes blank, and you find yourself existing only in the moment. This is what I call the Nirvana of the road, a sort of enlightened state that is gained by riding your motorcycle on long days through unfamiliar country.

The day ended at a Motel 6 in Eureka CA. Even there in the motel parking lot, I conversed about my Darkhorse with a couple of guys; one on a Harley Ultra-Glide and the other with a kayak strapped to the roof of his car. The guy with the Kayak was wondering if it was possible to tow a kayak behind a bike like mine. I said it was possible and that a lot of guys haul trailers behind their bike, but I've never done that myself.

I had dinner with both the guys I met in the motel parking lot at the Lost Coast Brewery in downtown Eureka. It was another great day in the saddle.

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Out Day 6: Eureka CA to Dublin CA (340 miles)

This would be the last leg on my way to California, the highlight of which would be a ride along the Avenue-of-the-Giants. This is a small 2 lane road that winds its way through a forest of giant Redwood Trees, many of which are thousands of years old.

Following US 101, just south of the town of Fortuna is the north entrance of the Avenue-of-the-Giants. It's an easy turn off the freeway, and a much slower way to go than shooting down the highway. Still though, for any motorcyclist, riding this road should be on their "bucket list" of must-ride roads. There are places to stop and buy gas and souvenirs here and there. These are not really cheesy or blights on the landscape, but are mostly run by local residents and sell wood work and bric-a-brac made by local artists. It's not a bad idea to stop and pick up a nice jewelry box made from Redwood Burl for your wife; just a word to the wise.

After exiting Avenue-of-the-Giants just north of Garberville CA, I picked up my speed and shot down US 101. This is still a beautiful highway and an enjoyable ride. Along the way I stopped at a rest area to take some pictures, and had a man driving a Maserati strike up a conversation with me about my Darkhorse. We talked for about a half hour about the bike, and it was apparent he was a fan of the Indian brand.

The rest of the way south to San Francisco was a nice but unspectacular ride. It was sunny and warm out but traffic was heavy as it usually is in that area. Riding across the Golden Gate Bridge on my Darkhorse was a treat though. I rode slowly with traffic and stretched to look up at the towers and over the edge of the bridge; it was a beautiful moment.

Once at the toll gate I got confused. Usually motorcycles pay no toll, but I didn't see a diamond lane to travel in, so I crossed through the electronic toll paying lane. That was a mistake as it turned out, because I was to have a toll bill waiting for me at home when I returned.

After crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, US 101 dumps you out on the city streets of San Francisco. Fortunately I had thought to put up my highway pegs, because traffic was tight. In some places there were only inches between my bike and the car next to me.

I had intended to take the Oakland Bay Bridge, but traffic was jammed in that direction, so I kept on US 101 south and eventually crossed the bay at San Mateo.

I arrived at my daughter's home at about 6pm. We had an enjoyable evening together with her husband and my grandkids.

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California

My time in California was really nice. I got to know my new granddaughter and get reacquainted with my grandson, and of course it's always a treat to spend time with my daughter. While there I also visited old friends, some of which I have known for more than 40 years. I also had time for a brief ride out to my hometown of La Honda. I sat on the porch of AppleJack's Saloon, talked with the locals and caught up on what has been happening in town. But it wasn't long until I started looking forward to the ride home. I love the feeling of movement, seeing new things, and the feeling of adventure.

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Back Day 1: Dublin CA to Biggs Junction OR. (630 miles)

Initially my plan was to strike out across the desert, ride by the famous Area 51, and arrive in Colorado through the four corners region. However weather reports indicated that the heat there was blistering, and considering that my Darkhorse does not appreciate those conditions, I decided to return home on a more northerly route.

I left my daughter's house Wednesday morning at 8am, this gave me 4 days to get home, and have a day to unwind before returning to work on Monday. So I made my way out to the central valley of California, found Interstate 5 and then headed north.

To put it bluntly, riding the central valley of California is pretty boring. You see a lot of cows, and pass through flat and uninspired cities along the way. The ride north only gets interesting once you get past Redding CA. Once there you ride out of the valley and into the hills surrounding Mt. Shasta.

I made my second fuel stop in Weed CA, then struck out on US 97 into the vast desolation of eastern Oregon. Riding through miles and miles of ancient lava beds, I realized that Oregon and Washington must have had a very violent past. The soil is extremely rocky and pretty much unusable. Pine trees grow in patches here and there, but for the most part the ride took me through low rocky hills covered in dry grass. The saying, "there is no there there" aptly applies to this region of the country.

It was a long ride, and gas stations were few and far between, but eventually I made it to the small town of Biggs Junction on the banks of the Columbia River. I stayed at the comfortable but unremarkable Three Rivers Inn, where there was Wi-Fi and I could park my bike right by the door to my room. I ate at a McDonald's across the road and spent a comfortable evening there.

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Back Day 2: Biggs Junction OR to Missoula MT. (450 miles)

The day broke clear and sunny, but cold. I could feel the dampness coming off the Columbia River as I left Biggs Junction behind, traveling east on Interstate 84. It was a beautifully scenic ride along the river. Across the way on tall grass covered hills stood a forest of power generating windmills. I was told that this area, near to The Dalles is a Mecca for sail boarders on the river simply due to the near constant winds.

Just past Messner OR, I branched off the interstate onto US 730 which soon took me to highway US 395, where I turned north. I crossed the Columbia River twice, once at Umatilla OR and again at Kennewick WA. Fortunately I got gas in Pasco WS before continuing north on US 395 because after that, there really wasn't anywhere to get fuel until reaching Interstate 90.

The ride on Interstate 90 retraced my route out from California through Spokane WA and Coeur d'Alene ID. This is truly a beautiful area of the country, and a place I'd like to visit again when I have enough time to fully explore the smaller highways and roads of the area. The highway crosses the continental divide, so the ride takes you high into thickly forested mountains, and even by some ski areas. It's a very relaxing and enjoyable ride.

It was getting into the afternoon as I crossed into Montana, and so I decided to stop for the night. I found a Motel 6 in Missoula that was just off the freeway, where I parked my bike and got a room. Typically Motel 6 charges $2 extra to get Wi-Fi, and when traveling I usually agree to get it. Having Wi-Fi allows me to email my friends, post on Facebook about where I am, and connect via Facetime with my wife.

Dinner that night was at a Taco Bell about a block away from my motel. Usually after stopping for the night I prefer to walk to where ever I have dinner because it feels good to stretch my legs after a long day in the saddle.

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Back Day 3: Missoula MT to Casper WY (620 miles)

It was a cold and wet dawn, and my motorcycle seat was wet. In spite of these conditions, my Darkhorse started easily enough, and I let her sit and idle while I strapped on my luggage and wiped down the seat with a towel borrowed from my motel room. So after a quick stop for gas, I was back on the interstate and on my way.

It was a cold morning, but that soon passed and the day warmed. I rode through the mountains following the course of the Clark Fork River. The highway was damp here and there, but presented no problems.

After stopping for fuel in Butte MT, I started to hear a sort of fluttering sound. At first I thought it was my imagination, but it was persistent. Every once in a while I would hear a brief rattle, but then the fluttering would return. The sound seemed to be linked with my speed, if I went faster the sound would subside a bit, but would return when I slowed. Things like this nag me, and so I soon found myself trying to figure out what the source of the sound was.

I stopped at Big Timber, then Billings for gas and inspected my bike both times but could find nothing out of place. My Darkhorse was running fine, so I was looking for something associated with my luggage that may be flapping in the wind, but everything was secure. I also looked over the bike and saw nothing that could be making this fluttering sound. My own mental gymnastics related to diagnosing what the sound could be was driving me crazy.

After Billings I turned south on Interstate 25; this highway would take me the rest of the way home. When I stopped again for fuel in Sheridan WY I finally found the cause and the source of the sound. My front exhaust header pipe was hanging loose; the nuts connecting it to the head were gone. Nothing was broken, it seemed the nuts had just worked themselves free and fallen off. I had no idea what size these nuts were, and no tools to put new ones on, and so I decided to continue to ride south and stop in Casper WY for the night. There in Casper I knew I could find a Harley dealer and believed that I could probably get the fasteners I needed there.

Once in Casper I got a room at a Best Western Hotel that was near the Harley dealer. That night I went on-line and asked what to do on the Indian Motorcycle Community Forum. I was then able to get the size of the nuts I needed and also got some suggestions on how to go about fixing the issue.

One thing that bothered me a bit was that I really did not want to pull into a Harley dealer with a problem on my Indian motorcycle. The Harley and Indian brands have always been rivals, and I didn't want to feed the anti-Indian rhetoric of loyal Harley riders. Fortunately I was able to find a Polaris/Victory dealer nearby, and I decided that I would keep the Harley dealer as my back up plan, but would visit the Victory dealer first thing in the morning.

I ate dinner at the hotel that night and had a nice relaxing evening.

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Back Day 4: Casper WY to Monument CO. (330 miles)

My last day on the road began at the Victory dealer in Casper WY. I had arrived right as the door opened and went straight to the parts desk. The guy behind the desk was extremely helpful, and I wish I could remember his name so that I could give him credit here. The nuts I needed were not in stock, so he pulled them off a Victory Motorcycle that was sitting out on the show room floor. He then went outside with me and installed them on my Indian. I gave him a good tip for his excellent service.

A very large part of Wyoming is extremely desolate, and riding there can be a challenge due to the wind and the boredom. There is also a stretch of the interstate north of Cheyanne where there are no gas stations for over a hundred miles, so it's important to watch the highway signs in order to not run out of fuel.

The rest of the way home was uneventful. Traffic increased as I rode south through Colorado, reaching a peak in Denver. I got home a bit after noon, and had a chance to unpack and unwind before returning to work on Monday.

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 + Open : 2014 - Key West

March 2014 - Key West and the Southeast

"Adventure is worthwhile in itself."
      - Amelia Earhart

Friday, March 21. Departure

The first day of a new adventure is always exciting. The whole of it lies before you and the potential of the adventure seems limitless. Who will you meet? What new things will you see? What experiences will you have? What will go wrong (and something always does), and how will you cope with it?

I almost always travel alone; this is my preference because when traveling on a motorcycle adventure, democracy pretty much sucks. You will end up going places and seeing things you would prefer not to. You will spend more time at uninteresting places, and less time where you would prefer to linger. I also tend to tire of the people I travel with; hauling them around with me can be like carrying an anchor.

Traveling alone is like swinging on the trapeze without a safety net. You are totally on your own, and if you lose your way, or if your bike breaks down, or if your credit card or money gets lost, you will have to deal with it on your own. Traveling without a safety net can be scary because there is no one to call on should things go wrong, but it can also be liberating because you learn to trust and count on yourself, and you are free to go where you want, and do what you please.

In the days and weeks before leaving I run through a maintenance cycle on my bike. I change the oil and have a careful look at my tires and brakes. Essentially I give my bike a good "once over" to make sure she is road worthy, knowing that through the weeks ahead I will count on her to get me where I need to go.

Heading off on a motorcycle adventure in the spring or fall creates some significant packing issues. The temperature swings you may encounter while on the road could be as much as +/- 50 degrees F. So, should you take your heated gear, winter gloves, extra sweaters, and rain gear, or should you bring along short sleeve t-shirts and sneakers? I really have no solid advice on this. I look at weather forecasts on line and just make my best guess. Invariably I usually end up taking more than I use in one area and less than I need in the other.

I usually pack for my adventures the night before leaving and store my gear in the garage next to my bike. On the morning of my departure I usually run through everything that I am taking one more time to remove any excess and possibly add something I may have forgotten. I then relax a bit and have some coffee with my wife. Eventually I wander out to the garage, and strap my luggage on my bike and get myself geared up and ready to go. After that it's a quick goodbye and I'm on my way.

So much potential lay ahead of me on March 21, 2014 as I rode out of our neighborhood and made my way to the freeway, and I could feel the excitement coursing through my body. I've ridden all the local roads and so I took the Interstate, anxious to put some distance between myself and what had become all too familiar, so I went south on I-25 heading toward my first gas stop for the day in Trinidad CO.

The day was cold, and I was fully wrapped in chaps, a sweater under my leather jacket, and cold weather gloves. The temperature remained in the low to mid 40's and so the cold was not impossible to bear, it was simply uncomfortable. I stopped near the Spanish Peaks near Walsenburg CO for a picture, but was then quickly on my way again.

I gassed up in Trinidad then continued south on I-25. After crossing the mountains and descending into New Mexico, the overcast skies cleared and it became sunny and warm. The air, even after warming slightly, felt delicious and seemed a luxury to be riding through after the cold of Colorado.

At Las Vegas NM I gassed up again and abandoned the freeway for US-84, heading south toward my destination of the Day, Roswell NM. US-84 took me through low rolling hills covered in scrub Pine trees. I could smell the tangy aroma wafting off the foliage, and riding through the steadily warming air was a real treat. It was one of those experiences you hope you will always remember.

Soon the scrub Pine trees gave way to dry grass covered hills, and eventually the hills themselves gave way to a flat and parched landscape. The distance from Las Vegas to Roswell is too great to comfortably make it all the way on one tank of fuel, but I found a service station in the town of Vaughn NM, just off from where US-54 meets up with US-285. With a full tank and an easy mind I crossed the mind numbing straight expanse on US-285 and finally rode into the town of Roswell.

I like seeing oddities when I travel. If some place or monument is at all peculiar I will do my best to see it, and take a picture of my bike there. I'm unsure why I do this; all I can say is that I find it amusing. I chose Roswell for a destination because, well, aliens landed there didn't they? When first plotting my proposed route for this trip I saw that there is a UFO Museum in town, so that had to be a destination I would hit. Peculiar yes, but I guess so am I. So once entering the town of Roswell I headed straight for the museum.

The Museum is near the center of town on a busy street, but I was still able to find a reasonable parking place on the street. By this time the temperature had risen into the mid 80's, and so after parking my bike I made quick work of getting my cold weather gear off my body and packed into my motorcycle luggage. After that I headed to the museum.

The museum is in an old movie theater and there is an admission fee of $5. If you love observing oddities (not just things but people as well), then the admission fee is well worth the price. The displays were exactly what I expected, but I was surprised by the number of people who seemed to be taking everything extremely seriously. Personally speaking, putting aside the physics associated with crossing such extreme distances, why an intelligent species would bother with all the effort and time to come here and visit a bunch of petulant barely evolved monkeys, I simply cannot fathom. The best I can come up with is that visiting Earth for them may be like my visit to Roswell, maybe they enjoy looking at oddities and peculiar things.

While in Roswell I also paid a visit to the local Harley dealer. I have a close friend who collects pins from Harley dealers as I used to do. So since the dealer was just a few miles down the road I decided to drop in and pick him up a pin.

Immediately after pulling into the Harley dealer I was surrounded my several of the mechanics that worked there. Everyone was interested in seeing the "new Indian" and there were a lot of questions which I gladly answered. One mechanic said that he had already made up his mind to get one of the new Indians as soon as there was a convenient dealer where he could see one. Everyone was impressed by the modern design that lurks beneath the nostalgic look. Indian definitely has a hit on their hands.

That night I stayed at a Super 8 motel near the north edge of town, and ate at a Sonic burger place that was across the street. My room was quiet and nice, but the Internet connection sucked big time; still though the room and its amenities suited my purposes. In the middle of the night I did hear some noises from outside my window. I was able to snap a quick picture, but the image came out a bit strange.

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Saturday, March 22. Boerne TX

The morning was cold, wet, and grim when I left the Roswell Super 8 motel. I got gas in town then headed south, continuing south on US-285, the highway on which I had entered Roswell from the north on the previous day. US-285 is a long straight highway as it heads south out of Roswell, skirting the edges of a lake at one point. Where ever there's water, the temperature drops; on hot days this provides a much needed relief, but on cold days the added chill makes for a miserable ride.

After passing through Artesia NM the road became just a two lane affair, and turned busy with big rig trucks. One thing I've learned from experience is to ride to the far right side of my lane when I see a big rig approaching from the opposite direction. When those trucks pass in the opposite direction at 70 or 80 mph a rider is slammed with a wall of air that may not be necessarily dangerous, but is certainly unsettling. Riding to the far right diminishes the impact of that air blast.

I stopped in Carlsbad for fuel. Something I've always wanted to do is visit Carlsbad Caverns, but this was not to be the trip when that would happen. Often when traveling I find myself stuck in Zeno's Paradox, trying to visit an infinite number of places in a finite amount of time.

Time often seems like a leash, anchoring us to where we must be and keeping us from where we wish we could go. Such it was that Carlsbad Caverns would be saved for another day and another adventure.

Beyond Carlsbad the world seems to empty. Ghost towns are scattered here and there along the highway where discarded and dilapidated homes and businesses line the sides of the road, these forgotten places are both scenic and sad at the same time.

West of Pecos I saw a "Horse Motel" abandoned and overgrown. This was a large open area surrounded by a high stone wall; on one side were places for people to stay, and on the other side were individual stables for horses. Seeing interesting things such as this is one of my strongest motivations to travel.

Pecos itself was a pretty dreary place; it was flat, dusty, and sprinkled with older homes and Mexican restaurants. I did pass by the "West of the Pecos Museum" but saw no reason to stop. I don't recall crossing the Pecos River, but I must have done so somewhere along the line.

In Fort Stockton I stopped to fuel up both the bike and myself. After gassing up I went inside the attached convenience store and sat at a table to have a satisfying hot cup of coffee. It had been a cold morning, and although the ride had been enjoyable I was chilled to the bone. Not for the first time on this trip I would think that I should have brought along my heated gear.

Outside the convenience store I was stopped by several (genuine) cowboys asking about my motorcycle. One said he rode a Honda Goldwing another said that he rode a Harley Ultra. Both were very impressed by my bike technical features and admired the aesthetic features as well. This would turn out to be a recurring theme through my entire trip.

Back on my bike I hit Interstate-10 where the speed limit is 80 mph, and headed east. I soon learned that Texans all seem to be in a huge hurry, so unless you're willing to wind your bike up to 90+ mph it's best to stay out of the #1 fast lane. Big pick-up trucks hurtling down the road at close to 100 mph seems the norm out there. On occasion people from the #2 lane would merge in, and those in the #1 lane would have to slam on their brakes. This makes for a chaotic and nerve racking ride. After experiencing this (to me) crazy traffic for a while, I kept to the #2 lane and just kept up with the flow of traffic.

Light rain followed me most of the way along I-10, but for the most part it was a scenic and enjoyable ride. Gas stations are scarce along this portion of the interstate, but I was fortunate enough to find fuel when I needed it.

One thing about my bike that I realized is that the "Miles to Empty" display works from the current estimated mileage on the MPG indicator. If you've not reset the MPG indicator in a while and are riding faster than you have been, then the "Miles to Empty" reading will not be accurate. I therefore recommend that you reset the MPG indicator when you change your riding style if you intend to use the "Miles to Empty" to determine your range.

It's true that everything is bigger in Texas. I realized this when I stopped for fuel at a Shell station with 28 fuel pumps, and again when I stopped for fuel at a place called Buc-ees. In both these places the gas station seemed to span several acres.

That night I stayed at a Motel 6 in Boerne TX. At the motel I was met by about 10 other motorcyclists that were on a group trip of their own. We talked for a long while, and then rode out together to see a car show that was downtown. All these guys rode different brands of motorcycles, Honda Goldwings probably were the majority, but there were other Japanese and European brands and one Harley-Davidson as well. The Harley broke down on our way over to the car show, and that's pretty much all I should say about that.

It was a nice evening. The company was good, and my room was comfortable. I was looking forward to the next day, when I would visit the Alamo.

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Sunday, March 23. Sulphur LA

It was another overcast and cold morning, and I was not really in a hurry to get out into it. I am definitely not a morning person, and it takes at least two cups of coffee before coherent thought can even occur in my brain. So I sat in my room and drank Motel 6 coffee and watched the weather channel.

My original plans for the day were to first visit the Alamo in San Antonio TX, then ride on the back roads north of Houston and spend the night near the Sam Houston National Forest in Cleveland TX. However, the weather channel was predicting heavy rains for the area north of Houston and Interstate-10. Considering that information, I changed plans such that after visiting the Alamo, I would charge down I-10 and see how far east I could comfortably get before the day ended.

I was pretty well set on not spending the night in Houston.

Back in the 80's I had been recruited by Compaq Computer to move down to Houston (Tomball actually) and work for them. After traveling down for interviews and again with my wife for house hunting, I decided to not take the job. The job itself was fine and the people I met there were really great, but the weather and Houston itself really was not compelling.

While interviewing at Compaq I read about a nearby shopping mall where the assaults and crime were so high that the police were placing sharp shooters on the roof of the mall to ensure the safety of the shoppers out in the parking lot. In the end Houston is a big city where I don't know what areas to avoid, and in the end that was enough to make me choose to avoid staying the night there.

Eventually the coffee did its magic and I was ready to go. In the motel parking lot I said good bye to the fellow riders I had met the night before, and we all wished each other safe travels. I then as usual picked up fuel before leaving Boerne and getting on the freeway. The air was cool and moist, and I could see dark and threatening clouds to the north as I made my way toward San Antonio.

I knew the turn by turn directions would be necessary when navigating to the Alamo, which is located in the center of San Antonio.

One of the items I used on this trip is a Kuryakyn Tank bag. This is a really handy piece of motorcycle luggage that attaches to the motorcycle fuel tank via a set of strong magnets. The bag comes with a soft cloth that fits under the magnets and prevents scuffing the paint on the fuel tank. This bag has two compartments, one with a clear plastic window that you can place written directions in, and a larger compartment where I keep my camera.

While a GPS system would likely be simpler, it's easier to choose scenic routes with my hand written directions. I actually have a Garmin Zumo 660 motorcycle GPS that I purchased with my discount while working at Pikes Peak Harley Davidson, but have never used it on my motorcycle; I use it in my truck instead. I've noticed that whenever I veer off the route chosen by "Gretta the Garmin" she complains and says something about "Recalculating" which I find irritating; so written directions work best for me.

I followed my written directions and made my way first to the city center, then getting off the freeway I navigated the maze of streets that are typical of any large city. It was Sunday, and so the roads were mostly free of traffic and my directions were working perfectly, until I came to a police road block. It looked like construction so I found a parallel back road that took me over narrow bridges that pass over the San Antonio River Walk. Once beyond where I thought the construction would end, I turned toward where I thought the Alamo would be, only to find my way blocked by a policeman directing traffic.

I waved to the policeman as I passed through the intersection and quickly asked how I could get to the Alamo. He informed me that the Alamo was open, but that there was a half marathon running that day and the end point of the race was the entrance to the Alamo. I thanked him, and rode on thinking I would probably have some difficulty finding a place to park.

Suddenly to my right I saw a near empty parking lot with the sign "Alamo Parking" in front. There were cars parked there and I saw no sign saying I could not park there, so I did. Once I parked and paid the fee, I took my Kuryakyn bag containing my camera and walked to where I could see there was some kind of monument. I had found the Alamo.

As a child of 5, I saved up my 0.10 a week allowance and purchased a set of toy soldiers depicting the Alamo. In later years still as a child, I had watched Disney's Davy Crocket movie on television. Perhaps because of this early exposure I've always been interested in the heroic events that happened there.

It's difficult to describe the feeling of the place where so many brave men willingly gave their lives for the sake of an ideal. It's also hard to imagine yourself in the circumstance of those heroes, called together by Col. Travis and asked to step over a line drawn by his sword in the sandy soil of the Alamo, a decision that would lead to their certain death. I believe we all think we would make that same decision and for a large part I think most of us would, but the weight of that decision should not be discounted especially for those men with wives and children. The cost of that choice hangs heavy in the air everywhere you go in the area.

If there is a place on this earth that is truly haunted, it is the Alamo. There is a feeling of seriousness and sorrow there. I'm unsure if these feelings were just mine, or an echo of the heroic lives lost and the sadness and deep respect of the millions of visitors that have visited this place since that time. The feeling is there nonetheless though. It's a place where one should walk with respect for the sacrifice that was made.

The phrase "Come and take it" used on a flag commemorating the refusal of the Texans to hand over a cannon that started the war that led to Texas freedom, is obviously taken from the Greeks at Thermopylae. There too brave men who were confronted with an overwhelming force chose to give their lives for the sake of an ideal. When the Persians demanded the vastly outnumbered Spartans lay down their weapons, King Leonidas replied "Molon Labe", meaning come and take them.

To the men who gave their lives at Thermopylae and at the Alamo, we owe our freedom and very way of life. The significance of their decision to step over that line and stand in defense of their beliefs cannot be overstated. They are heroes to us all.

I toured the long barracks and walked around the Alamo grounds for over an hour, just trying to soak it all in. Visiting this place was something I had always wanted to do, and now here I was.

Eventually I made my way back to my bike, where I was met by a very young boy and his father. The father told me that his boy became frantic and wanted to see the "cowboy motorcycle"; he called it that because all the fringe hanging from the seat and saddlebags. I smiled and gave them the talk and the tour of the bike. I believe that boy may well be an Indian Motorcycle owner when he comes of age.

Once they left I geared up and got on my way. Again my written directions worked well, and I navigated first through the maze of city streets back to the freeway, then through the maze of intersecting freeways back to I-10 heading east toward Houston.

The dark clouds to the north remained, and so I pretty much opened the throttle, hunkered down, and rode. The speed limit on the interstate was slower than it was in west Texas, but the drivers didn't seem to be more careful in response. If anything traffic became more hectic and dangerous. At one point I pulled into the #1 lane to pass a truck pulling a trailer and the car in front of me slammed on their brakes.

By the way, the ABS on our Indian bikes works really well.

Once reaching Houston I was shocked at how much larger that city had become in the years since I had last been there. In the 80's Houston was a sprawling metropolis, and now I found that it grown upward as well as outward. I saw freeway interchanges that seemed to be four levels high, something I've not seen outside of California. I went through so many such interchanges that I imagined the city must look like a giant Celtic Knot if seen from above, or perhaps a large and modern version of the Gordian Knot.

After passing through Houston I stopped for fuel at a small gas station that seemed in the middle of nowhere. I was cold and wet from the near constant drizzle I experienced going through Houston, and was in need of some energy to keep me awake and safe on the road. The place I stopped at had signs that suggested it supported a motel, a gift shop, a chicken and biscuit restaurant, as well as a gas station. I parked my bike in front of the restaurant and went in for some food.

The air outside was thick and heavy as it tends to be in the south, and moss hung in long ropes off the trees surrounding this place. I seemed to be the only customer, and once inside I was surprised to find that the place was also a bus station.

I ordered my chicken and biscuits and took it to a booth where I could sit and take in the landscape outside. As I ate I found myself more interested in the interactions at the bus ticket window than with anything outside. After a few minutes I suddenly heard a voice by my side.
"Hey man, let me use your phone."

With a quick glance I took in a young man wearing baggy pants with his ass hanging out but covered with brightly colored boxer shorts and with a baseball hat perched sideways on his head. In short he was an urban caricature.

Before I could answer he made his request again.
"Come on man; let me use your phone."

There was no way I wanted this idiotic cartoon of an individual to use my phone. I had no idea who he was going to call, and by the look of him it was questionable that I would get my phone back. At the time it seemed that I had only a few options.

I could deny his request, which would probably prompt resentment on his part which could escalate the situation. I could also say that I didn't have a phone, which could also lead to some kind of confrontation. Neither of those options seemed good ones, so I chose another route.

"Phone?" I sort of barked at him. "I don't have no damned phone. They're the work of the Devil!" The young man seemed surprised at my response, and so I continued. "You think you're talking to your friends on that contraption, don't you?" I asked. "But you're NOT. It's the Devil you're talking to I tell you, and he's trying to lead you astray!"

The young man and I stared at each other for a moment, and then finally he nodded and walked away. As he turned he said softly, "Ok sir. I'll ask someone else."

A lesson I learned from my father is that no one wants to mess with a crazy person.

Awhile later I saw that he had borrowed the phone of the Bus Station Ticket Agent, and was busy chattering away about nothing I could understand at all. It may have been a long distance call and he was going on and on about having met some crazy guy.

After finishing my chicken and biscuits I returned to my bike and pulled it up to the gas pumps with the intent to get fuel, but none of the gas pumps worked. With the chicken and biscuits, the urban caricature, motel nowhere, a bus station, and a non-functional gas station, this turned out to be one of the stranger stops I made on this trip.

I got back on the freeway and found the next gas station and filled up without any weirdness or other issues.

I continued to ride east on I-10 until the shadows started to rise from the dense woods at the side of the freeway. Eventually I found a Super 8 in Sulphur LA, and it was there that I spent the night.

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Monday, March 24. Tallahassee FL

I was greeted by sunshine and bright blue skies when I emerged from my room at the Super 8 in Sulphur LA. Until this point in my trip, sunshine and pleasant weather were practically unknown, and so this was a welcome change. This was a very promising looking day, and I was smiling and feeling encouraged.

Once packed up and gassed up I quickly found my way to the interstate and headed east on I-10. Trees lined both sides of the freeway and the cool morning air carried the thick fragrance of lush foliage to me as I rode. It was a beautiful morning.

It was my intention to get as far to the east as possible without pressing too hard. A long trip like this should be handled like running a marathon, in that it's best to pace yourself. Stringing together twelve to sixteen hour days in the saddle will wipe a person out pretty quickly, and the trip will lose some of its enjoyment. Riding long days would be like trying to sprint for the entire length of a marathon, in that you may be able to do that at the start of the race but you won't be able to keep it up for long. So my objective was to ride only in the realm of eight or nine hours per day.

After about an hour on the interstate I saw a highway sign that indicated there was a Harley dealer coming up that was right off the freeway. When I saw that sign I thought of my friend Ben out west who collects Harley dealer pins, and I decided to stop and pick him up a souvenir for a ride he will likely never take.

At the dealer my Indian did not attract the same frantic level of attention it had received at Roswell HD. I was quickly able to get in and out with a pin without any delays, and then headed over to a nearby gas station. I didn't need gas, but since I was stopped anyway I figured, why not?

Back on the freeway it wasn't long until I passed into the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge. There the highway became elevated and I soared over the Louisiana Bayou. This looked like an alien world, and to my eyes could well have been. My home in Colorado shares a more similar geology to the surface of Mars than it does to this strange alien world I passed over.

I saw trees growing right out of the water, their branches thick and dripping with moss. Strange birds perched on the tree branches and ripples appearing suddenly in the water spawned by mysterious creatures swimming in those dark and murky depths. It seemed a primitive world, lost in time and existing at this edge of the modern era. To my eyes the swamp appeared primeval and dangerous, and although I know some people are at home there, I definitely do not share their feelings. It's a sight to behold though, but only from the relative safety of an elevated highway because that is about as close as I'd like to get.

I crossed the Mississippi River at Baton Rouge, then took Interstate 12 east to avoid the traffic around New Orleans. The scenery along the Gulf Coast is both strange and beautiful, and it's my opinion that every rider should experience it some point in their life. If I am ever to make this ride again, I believe it best to take more time and travel as much as possible on US-90 and other state and local roads as possible. Interstates make for fast traveling, and I prefer them if I am set on a destination or don't know the area well. The smaller roads give a better flavor for the area though.

At one gas stop I found myself just staring at the lush grass surrounding me. In the years since I left the south I had forgotten just how green and beautiful the common road ways are. In both California and Colorado the edges of the roads are adorned by either concrete and stones, or dry dead grass and garbage. In the south, even common place things become beautiful.

At mid-afternoon I rode through a tunnel under Mobile AL, then across a long bridge that took me across Mobile bay. The day was still sunny and warm, and I was enjoying the wonderful scenery. But soon late-afternoon arrived the shadows in the woods surrounding the freeway deepened and the air began to chill.

I saw a highway sign for a Super 8 just west of Tallassee FL, and got off the freeway. The motel I found was an older place, obviously recently repurposed as a Super 8 franchise. The Indian people who ran the place were friendly and my room was large with two king sized beds. The place smelled damp and old though, and the internet connection was not very good.

There was a connecting door to an adjacent room, and for some reason my neighbors kept rattling the door, trying to open it. This was distracting and I was considering going to their room and telling them to knock it off, but before it came to that they gave up.

I walked across the street to a Cracker Barrel for dinner. If the politically correct crazies in this country have their way and the Washington Redskins have to change their name, I expect Cracker Barrel to follow suit. I don't much like Cracker Barrel as I find their food to be bland and tasteless, but the restaurant is usually convenient to where I stay the night, and so I find myself eating there more than I would prefer.

Sleep came easy to me that night as I looked forward to getting off the freeway for my ride down the west coast of Florida the next day.

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Tuesday, March 25. Naples FL

The morning was cold and damp, and the sky was hard, white, and unforgiving. The plan for the day was to head south, down the western coast of Florida on US-19, and finally find a place to spend the night in Naples FL, near the western edge of the Everglades.

Previously I had been waiting until it warmed a bit before heading out, but on this day I found myself loading my overnight bag on my Indian and getting ready to leave at 7am. Thunderstorms were predicted, and my intention was to avoid the torrential rain typical of afternoons in the south-east by getting an early start.

Back in the 90's I lived in North Carolina, and so am well aware of the hazard of the south's torrential downpours, where rain falls so hard and fast that it floods even the streets with the best drainage. With up to six inches of water rushing across the street, all that can be done is to seek shelter or stop somewhere along the side of the street to wait it out.

Aside from the danger of riding a motorcycle though several inches of flowing water, there is also the discomfort of being pelted by rain as well as getting absolutely soaked to the skin. Rain gear doesn't help in this situation because in the summer heat rain suits become saunas, and so it's best to just let yourself get wet with the hope of drying out once the storm passes.

So I skirted the northern part of Tallahassee on I-10 and soon found the exit for US-19 and headed south. Once off the freeway the traffic cleared, the sky became blue, and I soon found myself enjoying my ride on a beautiful sunny day. The sky became the clearest blue and the air was a liquid wonder as it rolled around me as I rode. The ride that morning was one of those perfect motorcycle experiences that we all live for.

US-19 took me through miles of marsh land and was hemmed on both sides by tall trees dripping with moss growing out of dark water standing at the road's edge. I passed through small towns, and saw people's homes and businesses. Riding the US highway system allows one to experience an area in a full and wonderful way that simply cannot be had on the Interstate.

I stopped for fuel several times on my journey south, and without a single exception every time I stopped people came over and admired my Indian; this was true even when there were no other bikers there. People would get out of their cars and come over to admire the bike and ask questions about it. I think those of us lucky enough to own these machines provide the best marketing Indian can have.

After several blissful hours, US-19 became congested as the open road disappeared and I entered the Tampa FL area. My ride became constipated with traffic and stop light speckled; in short a buzz kill. To top it off, the temperature rose as the wait at each light became longer, and all the drivers around me seemed intent on finding a way to crash their cars into me. To top all this off, there was road construction. The construction, traffic, and stop lights seemed to go on forever, but in time I did find my way to I-75 and continued my way south.

Riding in any metropolitan area is dangerous business. The locals are extremely aggressive and drive far faster than is safe. Even when the traffic is flowing freely, city dwellers will drive at break neck speed and will swerve in and out of traffic leaving only inches to spare. It's a nerve wracking experience, which is why I generally avoid cities. Considering all this, as expected I had several close calls as I passed through Tampa and made my way south.

At my final gas stop of the day I went into the convenience store to get a soda and when I emerged I found an older fellow admiring my Indian. We talked for several minutes about the bike and the advances in technology over the other major motorcycle brand. He then told me the story of how he came to live in Florida.

He said that in 1973 he had gotten fed up with winter where he lived in the northeast. So fed up was he that he got on his '69 Harley Ironhead Sportster and made his way down the east coast. When he reached US-41 through the Everglades his Ironhead broke down. An Ironhead breaking down is about as common as sunny days in Florida, so he wasn't surprised. He repaired his bike and was set to return home by heading north along the west side of the Florida peninsula, but then just 50 miles after he repaired his Ironhead it broke down again.

"Well," he said. "I figured it was fate, so I sold the Ironhead and I've been living in Florida ever since." He paused then and looked at my Indian. "That sure is a nice bike," he continued. "Do you know if there are any local dealers around here?"

After our conversation, I got back on my bike and continued south on I-75. I soon made my way to state route 951 and found a Super 8 where I would stay the night. That night I again ate dinner at a Cracker Barrel, my food was fine and it filled me up, which is about all I can say about it. My room was comfortable and the Internet was fine.

Tomorrow would be the highlight of my trip; I would ride across the Everglades following US-41, the Tamiami Trail, and then out across the Overseas Highway to Key West. It had been a good day, but I was confident that tomorrow would be better.

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Wednesday, March 26. Key West FL

It was a clear and bright morning when I emerged from my room and loaded up my bike. The sun shone out of a clear blue sky, unfettered by clouds or even the hint of bad weather, and the air was clean and crisp, in short it was riding paradise.

Anxious to get on the road, I gassed up and got on my way early. The roads were clear of traffic and the riding easy. I was excited to be finally on the way to ride the Overseas Highway out to Key West.

I had timed my departure and my entire trip just to make this ride on a Wednesday, when traffic would be light. So I was pretty much the only one on the road while following FL-951 south for several miles, then turning left onto the Tamiami Trail. At last I rode out into the Everglades.

I'm unsure what I was expecting in the Everglades, but whatever it was I did not find it. The Everglades is just a big saltwater marsh. Growing up as I did in the SF Bay Area, riding through marshland is not a new experience for me. Marshland is pretty much flat and wet grassland, and how much water is there depends on the tides. Roads through the marshland are usually pretty straight since there isn't really anything to navigate around. I admit the alligators were new to me, and that was interesting. Beyond that my ride following the Tamiami Trail was pleasant, but the longer I rode through the Everglades the more I looked forward to riding the Overseas Highway to Key West.

Eventually I turned south on FL-997 and rode through several miles of farmland before hooking up with US-1 near Florida City. From there it was a straight shot south on US-1, first to Key Largo, and then jumping between the rest of the Florida Key islands, and finally arriving on Key West.

The ride along US-1 was simply amazing and beautiful. The ocean there is a clear light blue, a color that must be seen in person to be appreciated. The ocean was never far away, to the point of when traveling on some of the smaller keys I could see the water on both sides of the island simply by turning my head. There's a lot of scrubby looking brush growing on the Keys, and considering extremely poor soil conditions it surprised me that anything could grow there at all.

I read that Caribbean Pirates did not use the Keys for a base of operations because there was no drinkable water available and the mosquitos were simply too much to bear. I can certainly see how this is could be, and fortunately my visit was before mosquito season began.

The Overseas Highway is not as long and as grand as it is portrayed in movies and on television. The longest bridge between islands that I recall was about seven miles. Most of the highway is a two way bridge with a single lane in each direction, and in many places there are remains of an old railroad that ran parallel to the highway. The railroad was destroyed by a hurricane in 1935. Even considering all this the highway was still a gorgeous ride, I felt as if I were soaring over the ocean, a sensation that must be experienced to be understood.

One thing to be aware of it you are planning a ride along the Overseas Highway, is that businesses and homes butt up against the road. The hazard is that people will suddenly pull out in front of you, especially if you leave some distance between yourself and the car ahead of you. So just be aware of your surroundings and watch for cars sitting at the road edge. I usually watch their front wheel because I can better detect motion there and anticipate them pulling out into traffic.

My route was slowed by road repair/construction from Key Largo through the Long Key. The construction was never a big deal though because the weather was so warm and pleasant. If I were stopped for anything longer than a few minutes I would just shut my bike down and just enjoy the experience of being there.

I arrived in Key West at mid-afternoon and then followed my written directions to the Blue Marlin Motel. I had booked my room a few weeks before I left home with the thought that because Key West was a tourist destination, finding lodging when I arrived might be difficult.

The Blue Marlin Motel is a nice place; my room was great, there was wireless internet available, and I could park my bike in a safe area where I could easily keep an eye on it from my room. My singular issue was the cost of the room; for a one night stay I paid $238, a rate that is simply ridiculous in my view. I mean, my room was nice, but not $238 nice.

Still though, I had my room and there's no point complaining after a certain point.

I parked my bike and hauled my riding bag up to my room. After that I quickly changed into a short sleeve t-shirt (the only time I would wear one on this trip), grabbed my camera and headed out to Duval Street, which is the main tourist/shopping area. My motel was about a block off Duval Street so it was an easy walk over, and it felt good to get off my bike for a while and stretch my legs.

My first shock on Duval Street was what appeared to be a brothel, clearly operating right on the main street. I don't know if Florida or Key West itself has legalized prostitution (like Nevada), but I was genuinely surprised to see this. The place even has a "menu" posted right out on the street.

Now I have no problem with brothels or prostitution; the "oldest profession" has been around as long as there has been commerce, and no amount of laws will ever change that. I even wonder about young women who marry rich older men and pay for their lives of leisure with their bodies; isn't that just a form of "soft" prostitution? Anyway, I was surprised only by the fact that this brothel was just right out in the open on the main shopping street. An interesting conversation regarding this could be:
Wife: I want to go into this shop and look at purses.
Husband: Ok. While you do that, I'll go in HERE…
I imagine that would not go well for the husband.

As I meandered down the street I passed numerous Karaoke bars as well as strip clubs. I saw a 300 pound guy that was built like a long haul trucker standing out in front of a transvestite club wearing a bright yellow dress and a big wig; he was trying to entice customers to come inside and see their show. I also watched a street performer dressed up like Darth Vader play the banjo; I always knew there was more to Darth's character than was highlighted in the Star Wars movies. Yeah, Duval Street is a great place to people watch.

I picked up a Key West rider t-shirt for myself and when I saw a Harley shop I picked up a pin for Ben. I ate dinner at a restaurant that specialized in seafood and burgers that was just off the street, then topped that off with some gelato I ate from a paper cup while wandering back to my motel.

The day had been everything I had hoped it would be; beautiful riding weather, fantastic scenery, and strange things to look at.

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Thursday, March 27. St. Augustine FL

The temperature was in the mid 60's on the morning I was to leave Key West, and all the locals were bundled up as if there were enduring a sub-arctic blast. Comfort it seems is whatever you are used to. In Colorado when the temperature gets into the 90's people stumble about as if suffering from heat exhaustion, whereas in those same conditions the locals of Key West would feel it's simply another pleasant day.

After packing up my first task of the day was to get a picture of my 2014 Indian Vintage by the "Conch" landmark. This is a concrete structure designed to look like a buoy, that marks the most southern part of the United States. A point that is only 90 miles north of Cuba.

During the day the area around the Conch is crowded with tourists, but in the morning most people are too hung over to be out and about, and so the area is vacant. I pulled my bike around and parked it right in front of the Conch and left her running as I crossed the street to take pictures.

With my souvenir picture taken I rode over to mile marker 0 for US-1, and turned north. This route took me by businesses and some homes, and eventually I came into some road construction. I dislike riding over pavement that has been ground down for repaving because it makes my bike feels squirrelly, as if I don't have a good connection with the road. I traveled through the construction for a few blocks then found a gas station and made my first fill up of the day.

After turning out of the gas station and getting on my way, I gradually started to get the feeling I was heading in the wrong direction. I've read that men have a better sense of direction than women because we have a higher iron content in our blood, and that Iron reacts with magnetic north. I don't know if that's true, but something was telling me I was heading south instead of north. Eventually this feeling became strong enough that I reacted to it and turned around. As it turned out my directional instinct was correct because within a few blocks I found myself riding by my motel again. I again took the route north and was soon off Key West and heading north through the Key islands.

The ride out of the Florida Keys was actually more pleasurable than the ride in. I made my ride in the early morning, and so road construction had not started up and traffic was light. I could ride along at my own pace and just enjoy my surroundings without having to keep such a sharp eye out for lunatics in their cars. Without the traffic my ride out of the Keys only took about two hours, and too soon I found myself back on the mainland and heading into Miami.

There was an Indian Motorcycle dealer in Miami, and I intended to stop by and have a look. I followed my directions to the letter and soon found myself tangled in city traffic. Lanes on the expressway were being shut down for the installation of fully grown Palm Trees. It was quite a spectacle for someone such as me, who had never witnessed such a thing before. The stalled traffic also tested how well my new Indian would stand up in the heat.

The temperature in Miami was in the upper 80's and I was stuck in unmoving traffic. Although my bike radiated a lot of heat which caused me a bit of discomfort, it preformed fine. In similar conditions my Harleys seemed to radiate more heat and some even started running poorly. My 2014 Indian Vintage ran fine in these conditions.

I've always viewed heat coming off the engine differently than most people, because I see it as a good thing. Radiating heat means that the engine is cooling itself. If the heat were to remain in the engine, then it would likely overheat, which would make it run poorly and possibly even cause damage. So radiating heat is a good thing; try to remember that then next time your leg is baking while you sit in traffic.

Eventually I came to the area where the Miami Indian dealer should reside, but I never found it. It could be that the dealer is tucked away somewhere out of sight from the road, or possibly they moved and the web site has not been updated. Whichever it is doesn't really matter I suppose, the result remains the same; I never found the Miami dealer.

In time I came across the on-ramp to I-95 and headed north. From that point my ride that day was unremarkable. City traffic was as usual; people driving too fast and not paying enough attention. At times it felt like being the lone duck in a shooting gallery. Beyond the cities of South Florida traffic eased and riding became easier. I-95 is a very major route north for big rig trucks though, and there is some hazard to comes with this, as I would find out tomorrow. On this day though the riding was easy and I soon arrived in St. Augustine FL, where I would stay the night at a Super 8.

My motel was nice and there was an IHOP restaurant next door. I like IHOP and often have breakfast for dinner when I travel. Dinner is often my only meal of the day as I am more intent on traveling than I am eating.

After dinner I did my laundry at the Super 8. Clean sox, clean shirts, and clean jeans are always a good thing. It had been another good day on the road.

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Friday & Saturday, March 28-29, Myrtle Beach SC

The weather channel had forecast afternoon rain storms, and so I studied the sky warily as I loaded my bike. The morning the sky was overcast and gray and the air was cool and had a wet feel to it, and I was regretting my decision to not bring along any rain gear on this trip. My one hope was that I would be able to dodge the storm cells and get through the day relatively unscathed.

My plans called for a 450 mile day up the coast of the Carolinas, eventually reaching Wilmington NC where I would spend the night. I was looking forward to riding through Myrtle Beach and the other coastal towns; this was something I had done many times when I lived in Raleigh back in the late 90's. These were pleasant memories of places that I was anxious to revisit.

With my usual breakfast of toast and coffee at Super 8 behind me, I got gas, and hit I-95 riding north. The ride took me through thickly wooded hills with pine trees that crowded both sides of the highway, blocking the view but creating scenery of their own. Within the depth of the canopy I could see blazing splashes of pink and white Crape Myrtle trees that were only now starting to bloom.

I rode for several hours through this beautiful scenery, dodging overly aggressive drivers and big rig trucks as is the usual on the Interstate. Through the south-east Interstate 95 consists of two lanes in each direction, so when a big rig slows while going up a hill, the rest of the traffic must queue up to pass in the #1 lane. There are times when I had to be a bit aggressive to get into the passing lane because everyone is in a hurry to get around the slow vehicle.

While traveling through Georgia that morning, I pulled into the passing lane to get around a slow moving big rig struggling to get up a hill. I hit the gas and shot into the lane, but then right as I got even with the big rig, one of the truck's tires exploded.

It was a retread tire, and we've all seen the remains of these scattered on the highway. The tread peeled away like the skin of an orange and shot across the lane right in front of me. I literally had no time to react; all I was able to do was to dodge my bike slightly to the right in an attempt to miss the largest section of the retread tire. I still hit a section of the tire but fortunately this was lying flat on the lane and I was able to keep good control of my bike.

After the impact I quickly made my way to the side of the freeway and stopped to inspect my bike for damage. I saw a black mark on the top side of my right exhaust heat shield where a section of the tire hit it, but found no other damage, still though I was a bit rattled by the experience. I rode more cautiously after that, and soon noticed that there were an awful lot of retread remains littering they highway. Maybe it was retread molting season or something?

After entering South Carolina I exited the freeway and continued north-east on US-17. This route took me around Charleston, and finally out to the coast. It was starting to rain though, and ahead I saw dark and threatening clouds stretching across the sky as far as I could see. It looked like I was going to get wet, which is an unpleasant but not unexpected experience on long trips such as this.

I passed through a lot of small towns and beautiful scenery, so other than the wet roads and occasional rain showers it was a nice ride. I really prefer the US highways to the Interstate system because there is so much more to see.

By the time I reached Georgetown SC the rain really started to come down in earnest. The skies just opened up and it poured. So when I spotted an Indian dealer south of Myrtle Beach I decided to pull in to dry off a bit and wait until the rain had passed. My leathers were saturated and heavy from the rain and when I entered the small dealer my boots sloshed and squeaked with each step I took.

Once inside I got a cup of coffee and talked a bit with the salesmen as well as a customer that was trying to decide between a Chieftain and a Vintage. There are pros and cons to each model as we all know, but I prefer the Vintage for the look and the better close up visibility that a windshield provides over a fairing. It's all personal preference though.

So I waited awhile at the dealer, but the rain was not abating at all. Finally I gave up my hopes of making it to Wilmington NC and decided to find a motel nearby where I could dry out and hunker down to wait out the storm.

Back on the road again I found a Comfort Inn on the King's Highway and got a room for the night. They let me park my bike under the front awning which was nice, and there also happened to be a Denny's restaurant across the street which was convenient because I didn't feel like riding in the rain any more than possible at that point.

I got my room and laid my leathers and gloves over the room heater to dry, then turned on the weather channel to see when there would be a break in the rain. The bad news was that the rain was going to continue to be heavy through the rest of the day and most of tomorrow. So after giving all this some thought, I called the front desk and extended my stay another day.

It was actually a nice break from riding, and the extra day allowed my leathers to fully dry out. After being on the road for over a week it was kind of nice to just lay around the hotel room and watch the television and read a bit.

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Sunday, March 30, Kill Devil Hills NC

As I packed up my bike, the morning that greeted was bright and full of promise. The rain of the last two days had moved further east leaving behind bright blue sun filled skies. The one thing left behind by the passing storm was a wet chill to the air. As I rode out that morning, heading north on US-17, I was hoping that the day would eventually warm.

US-17 took me through a lot of back wood and seemingly forgotten areas. The ride was decorated by lost and neglected houses and businesses that were in the slow process of collapsing and returning to the soil from which they came. I find these old buildings particularly beautiful because they seem to have much to say about the grace they once possessed, and they make me wonder about who lived there and when. These buildings also speak to me regarding how temporary are all the works of human kind, and that if we all were to vanish tomorrow the earth would soon forget we even existed at all.

It was a cold ride that morning though, and although my body remained generally warm enough, my hands suffered. Soon I found myself using the age old trick of placing my gloved hands against the rear cylinder head of my engine.

I found I could alternate hands against the rear cylinder through the use of my cruise control, and after warming my glove for a minute or so I would bring it up and test the warmth of it against my face. I was surprised that my glove wasn't any warmer than it was. Warming my hands in that way provided only modest relief from the penetrating cold, but even some small relief is better than none.

As I continued north and neared the coast the skies became overcast and I became concerned that I would soon encounter rain again. The air became misty and cooled further as I made my turn on US-64 and rode straight east toward the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

I remember going to these beaches with my wife and kids when we lived in Raleigh. The summers in the south are insufferable; the humidity was almost more than I could stand. I remember that my eye glasses would fog up just walking from my house out to where I parked my truck. Going to the beach though provided a much needed respite from the oppressive wet heat.

I also recall running with my kids out into the low Atlantic surf, where the water was so warm that I couldn't tell when my feet went from dry sand into the water. The water of the Atlantic has a higher saline level than that of the Pacific, and so I was much more buoyant than I was used to when swimming out on the California coast.

When I was about 20 years old and still living in California one of my cousins from New Jersey came out to visit me. While visiting she wanted to go to the beach and experience the Pacific, and so I took her to San Gregorio Beach, which is about halfway between San Francisco and Santa Cruz. That day while I was laying out a blanket and getting the cooler situated, my cousin told me she was going in for a swim and I casually told her to go ahead and that I would join her in a minute. This was a nasty trick for me to pull on her, because a moment later I heard a blood curdling scream and my cousin soon came back complaining about how cold the water was.

I stopped for fuel at the Alligator River Marina, a place I used to go with my wife and kids on the way to the beach. The sky, wet with fog, had lowered and seemed to hover just above the water; it was beautiful in a spooky and foreboding kind of way.

Quite honestly speaking, the bridges to and from the Outer Banks are much more scenic than the ones out to Key West. The beaches are much nicer out on the Outer Banks as well, and the whole place is less of a tourist Mecca and so everything is less expensive. Key West was fun and riding there was something I'd always wanted to do, but in terms of "bang for the buck" the Outer Banks is a much better destination in my opinion.

That night I stayed in the Buccaneer Motel in Kill Devil Hills NC. This is a nice family owned and operated motel. My room was very nice and the rate I paid was inexpensive. That night I ate crab cakes at Hurricane Moe's Restaurant that was just a mile up the road. It was a nice meal, and a great ending for a beautiful days ride.

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Monday, March 31, Raleigh NC

I awoke shortly before dawn in my room at the Buccaneer Motel in Kill Devil Hills NC to the sound of my alarm. I then got myself up and walked the hundred or so yards to the beach with the intention of getting a photograph of the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately the overcast skies of the day before lingered, and all I got were photographs of a wet and cloudy beach. Actually what I really wanted was a picture of my Indian Chief Vintage with the Atlantic Ocean in the background, but that wasn't going to happen either because the coastal sand dunes blocked the view of the ocean.

This was a day of changing plans. Originally I had intended to ride up to Colonial Williamsburg VA to do some sightseeing, but that part of my original ride plan had to be skipped because of my extended layover in Myrtle Beach due to the rainy weather. My new plans were to ride west to Raleigh where I would have dinner with old friends that night.

Once, years ago, I worked with a guy that had a pretty negative attitude about work. He had an interesting saying that does hold a lot of truth though. He would say, "Remain flexible, and have low expectations." Sadly I must admit that a dower view of a work environment, and human interaction in general, is frequently a realistic one. However for riding a motorcycle, my friend's words of wisdom hold little truth or value. On my Indian, every change in plans offers a new opportunity.

After a brief walk on the beach picking up some shells for my wife (she has a collection of such things), I returned to my room. It was still pretty cold and nasty out so I made some motel room coffee and watched the morning news on television. After a while the day brightened enough to encourage me to get on my way.

I rode north on US-158 and soon crossed the Wright Memorial Bridge back to the mainland. Riding west I left the cloudy and overcast coastal weather behind me; the sky turned blue and the bright sun warmed me up. After several days of rain and cold, the warm sun shining down on me out of a clear blue sky really brightened my mood.

I love riding the back roads of the Carolinas. Traveling through scenic towns and beautiful scenery is just good for the soul. There are so many treasures to be found in these little hamlets, and many discoveries to be made.

I continued to follow US-158 west as it wandered through farmland and small towns. In the town of Weldon NC I ran into some major road construction, and was forced to follow a not very well marked detour that took me several miles south before diverting me back north again where I could resume my route west. I felt warm and relaxed as I rode, and so the construction and the detour didn't bother me at all.

In the early afternoon I turned south on US-1 toward Raleigh. Soon the farmlands and quaint towns disappeared and I found myself riding through increasingly congested traffic. The day had turned almost too warm by that time and I had gotten rid of my leather jacket and was riding comfortably wearing a t-shirt and my leather vest. It was a good day to ride.

North of Raleigh I rode down Falls of Neuse road, which brought back memories of commuting to my job years ago. One morning on my ride to work this same road had two lanes in each direction, and that evening on the way home it had three lanes in each direction. This miracle wasn't the result of Raleigh construction crews quickly building new lanes, instead it can only be said that the construction crews are fast painters. All the lanes had gotten narrower. After that riding the road had become a daredevil act, and so I soon opted to take another route.

I rode into our old housing development. We lived in the north of Raleigh, just off of Durant Road, which was and continues to be a pretty posh neighborhood. Considering my extremely humble background, I was astounded to be living in such a place. Every morning I would go outside and stand there for a moment or so and just take it all in, and wonder how the hell I got there. Although many of our neighbors were friendly, most did not like us. We were "new money" after all, and therefore interlopers in their rarefied world.

I passed by our old house and took some pictures. Our house had been a huge place with over four thousand square feet. The new owners had expanded the house by at least another thousand square feet. Although the house already had a three car garage, they had added a separate two car garage with a living space above it. The modified house was immense.

Leaving our old house behind I putted around some of the places I used to go. Things had changed somewhat in years since we moved. Everything seemed bigger somehow. After a while I checked into a Super 8 just off Glenwood Ave. and waited to hear from my friends regarding where to meet for dinner.

That night I was to meet up with my old Martial Art training friends and partners. Julee Peck runs one of the finest Taekwondo schools I have ever come across. She is a brilliant technician in her art, a gifted instructor, and a good friend.

The moment I arrived at Julee's training hall I was met by old friends. Julee was teaching a class and so I sat for a while talking with Wilbur, my old sparring partner. Wilbur stands roughly 6'4" tall and weighs in at about 300 pounds, and even though he is a big guy he can kick your head right off your shoulders before you can blink your eye. Wilbur is a good man and we had a very nice conversation about what has gone on in our lives over the intervening years. We both have daughters, and so we commiserated over all the crazy shit our little girls have put us through. We also talked about our own trials with our aging bodies. We laughed a lot and it was a good time.

After class, I went with Julee and her husband, along with perhaps 10 others to a nearby restaurant. One of the things that made Julee's school so successful is the sense of community she has been able to develop among her students and staff. When I trained there we would go out every Friday night after class for dinner. At the restaurant that night it seemed as if I were transported back in time to those days.

We talked, we laughed, we shared, and we remembered. Life is about the connections we make with others, and every minute we are alive we should remember that and cherish those friends we have.

After dinner and conversation, I returned to my motel room feeling like a rich man for having people like this in my life. I wished I could stay longer and visit more with these people, but that's always the way it is, and the way it should be. There is never enough time when visiting friends.

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Tuesday, April 1, Lowell NC

As I walked out of my motel room door, the morning that greeted me promised that a good day lay ahead. The sun was out, the sky was blue, and I had a sweet ride up to Charlotte ahead of me. What could be better than a ride through the Carolina countryside on an Indian Chief Vintage?

After two cups of coffee and a Danish at Super 8, I packed up my bike and headed east on Glenwood then took the I-440 Outer Loop which would take me toward south Raleigh. Soon I-440 became US-64 and I was on my way.

My route took me away from the cities and through farming and horse country instead. It was a beautiful ride in pleasant weather. The bad thing about the day was that my ride would be short, but the good thing was that I would be arriving at the Charlotte Indian dealer early enough that they could at least get started on the work I needed them to do.

Before leaving on this journey I had performed the 5,000 mile service on my bike. However after being on the road for 10 days and putting on another 4,500 miles, it was time to get the 10,000 mile service done and I could think of no better dealer to perform this task than Indian of Charlotte. Charlotte is called the "Mother Ship" by many Indian riders, first because they are the original and oldest Indian dealer, and second because they are experts in the repair and maintenance of all the modern era Indian Motorcycle models, and finally because they have a well-deserved reputation for excellent customer service.

At Charlotte I jumped on Interstate-85 and headed west, then took exit 22 and followed the signs to the Mother Ship dealer. The entrance to the showroom is designed to look like an Indian Chief front fender, which I think is really cool. Once inside I was greeted by Mark Moses (the General Manager and owner) at the door and was quickly put in touch with the Service Manager Mike Steranko.

Mike asked me when I needed my bike back, and I replied that it would be nice if he could get the 10K service done today, but I could wait an extra day if necessary. I also had Mike look into some noises I was hearing from the rear of my bike. After some investigation it was found that my rear fender and one of my exhaust shields were loose, and that my front brake pad had some issues that needed to be corrected. Mike beveled the edges of my front brake so it would engage smoother, and tightened the parts that had come loose.

I waited at the dealer, drinking coffee, reading magazines, and talking with Mark's daughter (who works in the apparel department) for pretty much the entire afternoon. While waiting I met "Lucky" from the Indian Motorcycle Community Forum, and we agreed to get together for dinner that night. Late in the day Mike informed me that my bike was done. When I went back to pick it up I was surprised that they had even washed and detailed it; getting the bugs off from my trip must have been quite an ordeal, but somehow they managed it.

With my bike serviced and ready to go, I waved goodbye and was on my way. Once I left the dealer I did make the mistake of starting to go the wrong way on the freeway, but after some finagling I was able to get my orientation and head further east on I-85. In just a short while I found a motel for the night and soon contacted Lucky so we could meet for dinner.

Lucky and I met at a Texas Road House that was near to both our motels. We had a nice conversation over dinner; Lucky is a good guy and I hope to see him again someday.

In all it had been a fun and productive day.

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Wednesday, April 2, Manchester TN

A clear blue sky, bright sun, and warm temperatures greeted me as I left my motel and took I-85 east. This was the day in which I would visit the Georgia Guidestones and then ride into Tennessee. The day was absolutely perfect, and I was really looking forward to my ride.

My first stop would be at the Georgia Guidestones, which is a peculiar and mysterious monument set in the middle of farmland that is south of Lake Hartwell. Back in 1979 an unknown man showed up in Elberton with a suitcase full of money and plans for a monument he wanted to build. A year later the property had been purchased and the monument, called by some the "American Stonehenge", had been built. Little to nothing is known about the people behind building the monument, or even what purpose it serves.

The Georgia Guidestones are part Rosetta Stone and astronomical observatory. In my opinion they seem to provide rules for humanity to follow after some sort of great calamity. Etched on the capstone is the inscription, "Let these be guidestones to a new age of reason," written in Babylonian, Egyptian, Sanskrit, and ancient Greek; as these are languages that no one speaks any more, I'm unsure what the purpose of that inscription is, other than to provoke debate.

On the four sixteen foot tall upright stones are etched the "Guides" from which the Guidestones get their name. These are written on separate standing stones in English, Spanish, Swahili, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian. Most of these guidelines seem to be pretty reasonable to me, although the first and third are pretty controversial. The Guides are:

How will humanity be culled to just 500,000,000? My belief is that the guides indicate that this will be done via a natural or man-made disaster, and either way that goes it's bound to be unpleasant. But the verbiage of the guide through the usage of the word "maintain", seems to indicate that when the guides are to be used is after some terrible event has transpired.

While I feel a single language used by all humanity could be a good thing, some don't see it as such. I've been told that unifying humanity with a single language is a feat that is Biblically attributed to the anti-Christ in Revelations. Due to the association with the anti-Christ, some groups have called for the stones to be smashed and there have been problems with vandalism.

There is also an astronomical component to the Guidestone monument. The Moon's yearly migration on the horizon, the winter and summer solstices, and the location of Polaris (the North Star) are all mapped by various alignments and sight lines on the monument.

In general the Georgia Guidestone monument is a curious object, and so to me it provides a good riding destination. If you're interested, you can read more about the Georgia Guidestones here.

I rode through miles of scenic farmland following my written directions, and eventually found the monument. It's quite an impressive structure, not as large as Stonehenge by far, but still very interesting.

Several people were there when I arrived. Two local farmers had stopped, partly because they had a flat tire on their trailer, but also because they had been driving by the monument for years and never stopped to take a look. There was also a young couple on a bicycling adventure that had paused to take in the sight as they rode through the area. If you're going to be in the area, I think the Georgia Guidestones are definitely worth the trip.

After wandering around the site and taking pictures, it was time get on the road again. I followed a different route, taking in the scenery as I traveled out to pick up I-85 again. Once on the interstate I headed south-west toward Atlanta.

I hate riding through big cities. There are simply too many cars being driven recklessly by people only vaguely aware of their surroundings. Riding through an unknown large city is also made difficult by having to look for this or that interchange when you really don't know when or where they will show up.

In Atlanta I connected with Interstate-76 and headed north. The freeway there takes you ever higher in elevation through a thick pine forest; it's a reasonably nice ride. Then at Chattanooga TN I picked up Interstate-24 which took me west into the central part of Tennessee. The ride right out of Chattanooga takes you around Lookout Mountain, which is quite scenic.

Central Tennessee is really a beautiful place made up of rolling hills, lakes, and small rivers and creeks. Scattered through this landscape are old farms and small towns filled with friendly people. As I write this looking back on trip down east, I think that central Tennessee is a place I would like to visit again and spend more time exploring.

In time I found my way to Manchester TN where I got a room for two nights at a Motel 6. My room was fine, and being located right off the freeway there were plenty of restaurants nearby.

From the beginning I had planned to take an extra day in Tennessee to visit the town where my father's side of the family hails from. I had grown up hearing my father's stories of his childhood in Wartrace TN, and tomorrow I was finally going to see the place.

It had been a good day, and tomorrow promised to be another adventure.

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Thursday, April 3, Wartrace TN

I had stayed the night before at a Motel 6 in Manchester TN, and planned to spend day visiting the tiny town of Wartrace TN. Not many people have ever heard of Wartrace, and I think that a person probably must have family in the area for the town to have any meaning for them. I was there out of curiosity because my Father had been born there, as had both my Grand Parents and their ancestors. I was there to walk the streets and just get a sense of the place.

Wartrace today has a population of only about 500 people, which coincidentally is the same population of La Honda CA, my home town. While I am well acquainted with small towns, Wartrace was more established than I expected. It's a town that has history and has seen better days. The town now only hosts a reportedly haunted hotel, a restaurant, a retro Texaco gas station, and a few shops.

After pausing at the retro gas station for photos on my way into town, I parked by the old band stand and got off my bike to wander about a bit and take some pictures. As I stood reading the historic plaque on the band stand a car load of people pulled into ' the town square. They saw me and waved as small town people are prone to do, and I waved back.

I happened to be standing nearby when I saw an infirm elderly man in the back seat of the car struggling to get out. I immediately went over to help him out of the car, saying that I too have trouble getting out of the car these days. He laughed and we chatted a bit. I told him that my family was from the area and he said his older sister who was with him might know something of my family. His sister was perhaps 10 years older than me, but unfortunately she never knew of anyone with my family name living in the area.

They were there to have breakfast at the Chockley Tavern (aka Dee's Restaurant) and after some conversation invited me to join them. I let them go ahead of me while I took a few pictures of the downtown, and then joined them for a cup of coffee while they ate. Although no one had heard of my ancestors, I was told the schoolhouse where both my Grand Parents had taught had burned down in the 60's, but the foundation was still there. I was also given the phone number of a local historian that might be able to tell me more. After finishing my coffee I thanked and wished them well and was on my way.

After taking a few more photos, I did wander over to the (haunted) Walking Horse Hotel and was allowed to wander about on my own. The man that let me in specifically told me to take a lot of pictures because ghosts have been known to show up in photographs. Apparently the hotel has been featured on ghost/paranormal television shows. I did as he asked, and do have one suspicious photograph where it appears that a woman is standing in an upstairs window looking out at me; that could be a trick of the light though, but who knows?

In a small town like this there really isn't much to look at, simply because there isn't much there at all. So after wandering around a bit I saddled up and headed out with the intent to get lost. Actually I was interested in finding a place I had seen on a local map called Bugscuffle; frankly I was interested in finding this place simply because I thought Bugscuffle was a funny name. Bugscuffle though must be even smaller than Wartrace because I never found it. My quest to find the illusive Bugscuffle took me through some beautiful country, so my search was not in vain.

The landscape around Wartrace is really quite wonderful and worth the trip just for riding the roads in the area. There are old farms with some dilapidated barns and buildings scattered through the rolling hills, and the valleys are frequented by clear swiftly running creeks and rivers. Traffic is light which makes riding easy, but the roads are narrow and without easy places to pull off and take pictures. Sadly I passed by many beautiful places without taking a picture because to do so would put me at risk of becoming road kill.

As it is in pretty much every small town in the mountains, the locals take their roads seriously. They drive them at break neck speed that only those intimately familiar with every nuance of the road can attain. Being from small town myself I am well aware of the danger this poses to outsiders, and so I chose to respect the locals by getting out of their way as soon as possible and not stopping in the middle of their roads; the cost of this courtesy though were many missed photographs.

That night a line of storms that stretching from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico was due to pass through the area. The worst of it, heavy rain, hail, high winds, and possibly tornados, was due to come through at about 4am, and the rain was predicted to last into the late morning. I've been through situations like this countless times, and even once previously on this trip, and so as I usually do I talked to the people at the front desk and asked to park my motorcycle someplace where it would be out of the elements. I was given permission to park my bike on the breezeway where it would be sheltered between two buildings. My bike was kept undamaged and dry through the night.

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Friday, April 4, Springfield MO

It was still raining when I awoke, but the worst of the storm had already passed through. My bike had spent the night sheltered in the breezeway between motel buildings, and so she was dry and undamaged by the pounding hail of the night before.

That morning I leisurely drank motel room coffee and watched the weather channel on the television. By 9am the rain began to ease a bit and so I decided it was time to pack up and move on. I strapped my overnight bag to my bike and was soon on my way.

According to the weather channel there were lingering rain showers to the north, the direction I was headed, but these were predicted to clear before long. So the roads were still wet when I hit Interstate 24, riding north toward Nashville.

Just past Murfreesboro it began to lightly rain, and the closer I got to Nashville the harder the rain came down. The rain, extensive road construction, and not knowing my way around, all combined to make my ride through Nashville a bit of an adventure.

At the center of the city three interstate highways, I-24, I-40, and I-65, tangle to form a twisted knot. Navigating through this maze was made all the more difficult by road work, high traffic, and poor signage. My intention was to continue north on I-24, but the sign marking the left exit to do so only appeared right at the exit. I ended up missing that turn off because I was busy trying to not get run over by idiots and keeping my bike upright while riding over rutted uneven tarmac.

So then I found myself riding east on I-40. I got off on the next exit and got back on I-40 west, but then missed the exit for I-24 again because some ass clown was trying to run me off the road. So I got off on another exit, turned around and was soon heading east on I-40 again. The third time was the charm because I finally got back on I-24 north, and soon Nashville was in my rear view mirrors.

Beyond Nashville the rain eased and eventually stopped. The day was clear and the air crisp, but my wet leathers made for a cold ride, at least for a while. I picked up US-62 near Paducah KY then followed SR-286 and eventually found US-60, which I would follow for the remainder of the day. I crossed the Mississippi and Ohio rivers then rode west into Missouri.

The road was flat and mostly uninteresting for a while, but soon I was surprised to find myself riding through hill country. The sun came out and my leathers dried, the day warmed and soon I was riding with my feet kicked up on my highway pegs just enjoying the scenery. Going through Missouri on US-60 is a darned nice ride.

I ended the day at a Super 8 in Springfield MO, and had dinner at a Steak and Shake that was across the street from my motel. It had been yet another good day in the saddle.

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Saturday, April 5, Dodge City KS

The morning was clear and sunny, and I was about ready to be home again. The bad weather of the past few days had moved east, and it felt good to not be concerned about the weather for a change.

I was on the road by 8am and making my way west on local state routes rather than either the interstate or the US highway system. I rode past working farms and beautiful landscape. It's pretty much all flatland west of Springfield, but still the scenery was nice. By noon I had picked up US-400 and was making my way west toward Dodge City KS.

I remember fueling up in Wichita KS mostly because I didn't much care for the look of the place. The gas station I stopped at was near the center of the city, and was one of those places where you really don't want to leave your bike unattended, if you know what I mean.

I continued to follow US-400 all the way to Dodge City, where I eventually found a Super 8 motel to spend the night. I didn't do any sightseeing in Dodge City, and probably should have. It was one of those days though where I just didn't want to fight crowds around the tourist sites. All I wanted to do was relax after the days ride.

I ate dinner that night at a all-you-can-eat Mexican restaurant. The food there was mostly tasteless and dry, but what the heck, it was a convenient walk from the motel.

Tomorrow would be my last day in the saddle on this trip, and I was looking forward to getting home.

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Sunday, April 6, Home

My last day on the road started out overcast and cool. The weather report of the night before predicted rain showers over Kansas and Colorado.

On days like this I always hope that the highway I take will remain free of rain. There have been times when the road I am on will take me precisely between towering thunderstorms and I don't get wet at all. Other times it seems like the rain is falling only along the route I take. It's hit or miss I guess, but still I was hoping for a dry day and an easy ride.

I picked up US-50 in Dodge City and headed west. At first the day was just moist and cool without any sign of storms. The road from Dodge City KS to Pueblo CO follows the Arkansas River, but is mostly just dry, straight, and uninteresting. I've ridden US-50 through eastern Colorado many times; it's good for airing out my mind and stretching my riding legs during the winter, but in the summer time I much prefer riding into the mountains.

I got gas in Syracuse KS and rode that tank all the way to Pueblo CO.

I dodged thunderstorms up until La Junta CO, but after that the wind picked up and the storms across the prairie started to get serious. As I entered Pueblo the wind was buffeting me around and it was starting to rain, and so I pulled off I-25 north of the city at a Love's Fuel Stop.

The wind and rain came on strongly as I was filling up, and when I looked toward home it looked grim. The rain to the north was literally pounding the cars and trucks on the highway. So I did the sensible thing, I parked my bike and went into the convenience store and bought myself a nice cup of coffee. I sat there at a table next to the window and watched as the storm blew by.

After a while the rain eased and the clouds to the north looked less formidable, and so I got my gear back on, mounted up, and headed back to the highway. The riding was fine for most of the way up to Colorado Springs, but then it started to rain again.

The elevation of Pueblo is about 4,500 feet, Colorado Springs is about 6,500 feet, and where I live the elevation is over 7,000 feet; so it was no surprise that as I gained in elevation the storms got worse and the air grew cold. Soon after passing through Colorado Springs the falling rain turned to snow, and it came down hard.

It was one of those very wet snow storms with huge flakes that seem to stick to everything. There was nowhere to pull off, and so I just hunkered down behind my windshield and did the best I could. Soon though the snow began to stick to my windshield and I couldn't see through it. Fortunately the roads were still warm enough that the snow was not sticking there yet, but the blowing snow across the road surface was forming what I call "road snakes" that can be distracting and a little dangerous.

I toughed it out though and finally pulled into my driveway. Once there I paused to take a picture of my bike covered in snow, then pulled her into the garage.

I was home, and that felt good.

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Epilogue

I feel as if I should say something meaningful about what I gained from this trip, or about some great life altering insight I had while riding. It's true that taking long trips on a motorcycle have helped me get through rough stretches of my life, but it's my belief that what we find while out on the road is only what we had inside ourselves all along.

Many people say that long rides such as this provide an opportunity for reflection and thinking through problems. While I do some of that while riding, most of the time I'm not thinking about anything and am just being in the moment.

In Martial Arts there is a discipline called mushin, or more exactly "mushin no shin". This is a term from Zen Buddhism meaning "no mind" or "the mind without mind". It is a state in which we are aware of all that is around us, but remain unfocused on anything in particular.

This is a state we learn to attain during combat that allows us to respond to our opponent on an instinctual level. Obviously your body responds much faster when acting on instinct than it does when you think about what you are going to do, and then do it.

Mushin can be deeply relaxing because while in that state you are not judging or considering anything or anyone around you. While in mushin you are completely in the moment and are unconcerned about either the future or the past. In this state you let go of whatever outcome that lies ahead, and simply accept and respond to whatever happens.

So riding through a long adventure isn't about working through some kind of life diagnostic or dissecting problems. Instead it's about being in the moment and taking whatever next comes down the road.

Happy trails.

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 + Open : 2014 - IRIP

May 2014 - IRIP & Branson MO

"Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down."
      - Oprah Winfrey

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

It snowed the day before, and so as I pulled my 2014 Indian Chief Vintage out of the garage four inches of the white stuff remained covering the prairie surrounding my house. It was cold, with temperatures hovering in the low to mid thirties that morning, but I was wearing my heated vest and gloves along with flannel lined jeans and chaps, so I was feeling fine and ready to go.

Originally I planned on taking my 2010 Indian Chief Darkhorse on this trip to Branson MO and the Indian Rally at Indian Point (IRIP). However the necessity of wearing heated gear had changed my mind. The charging system on the Kings Mountain Indians (2009-2013) is suspect. My Darkhorse is otherwise completely reliable, and I regretted not taking it, but taking my new and reliable Chief Vintage was the logical choice.

I pulled out of my driveway at 8am that morning and took local snow lined streets through the town of Black Forest, heading east until I met up with US-24. This route is a short cut from my house over to Interstate-70 that allows me to bypass the traffic of Denver, which is always a good idea.

My bike only had about a quarter tank of fuel when I left home, and so I picked up gas in Calhan CO before heading deeper into the prairie. There wasn't much wind, which was a blessing, and although it still was darned cold my heated gear held the frigid temperatures at bay.

After hitting I-70 I turned east and rode through the clear and brightening day. The scenery out that way is flat, boring, and pretty much uninspired; still though, any day in the wind is a good day in my view. I picked up fuel in Burlington CO, and then continued east.

I don't have a thermostat on my heated gear, just an on and off switch. This suits me fine because I ride with the heat off until I get cold then go into a shivering bliss when I switch it on and heat runs up my back. Having heated gear has lengthened my riding season and allowed me to ride in places I would otherwise avoid. All of that is a good thing.

I stopped for fuel every 150 miles or so as I rode across Kansas. The day warmed to a point, but I kept my heated gear on the whole way.

Just past Topeka KS, I-70 turns into the Kansas Turnpike, a highway you have to pay a toll to ride on. I don't much enjoy toll roads, but the people behind me probably dislike it more than I do. When paying a toll while riding a motorcycle you must take your gloves off to get out your wallet and pay the toll, then put away the change then return your wallet and put your gloves back on before you pull away from the toll gate. All of this takes a while to do, so generally it sucks to be behind a motorcycle at a toll gate; to which I say, "oh well, sucks to be you."

I spent the night at a Super 8 in Lawrence KS. It was a decent place, and the internet was fine. The motel was in an odd location though. It was one of those places where you only see the sign as you are riding past the driveway. It took a couple of U-turns, and a short bit of riding up the wrong side of the road against traffic, but eventually I rolled into the parking lot and checked in.

Upon returning to outside to get my luggage I was met by two Harley riders. Both were complementary of my Indian, one especially so who said he was going to buy one once a dealer was closer by. Getting attention like this comes when you ride one of these beauties.

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

I slept in a little the next morning because I knew I did not have far to go that day; 250 miles in a day is pretty much a walk in the park. After fueling up I hit KS-10 E and soon enough found my way to MO-13 S.

South of Kansas City the rolling hills become more pronounced. South of Springfield MO these hills eventually become the Ozark Mountains. Coming from Colorado, calling the Ozarks "mountains" is a bit of a stretch. They are what they are though, and whatever you may choose to call them, their beauty remains undiminished.

The Ozarks are stunning limestone mountains covered with lush trees and grasslands. The spectacular cliffs are just about everywhere you go, and the roads there provide some of the best riding to be had anywhere. The riding I experienced was mostly over wide open, traffic free roads with long steeply banked turns.

Finding Indian Point is relatively easy even for a first time visitor. You take US-65 south from Springfield MO, then MO-465 to MO-76, and you're pretty much there. The Hunter's Friend resort at Indian Point is a friendly family run place that has an air of comfort about it. It's a very welcoming place for Indian Riders.

I was traveling alone and made my reservation in February and so had a room at the Marina Inn. Those traveling with family, or wanting a larger place to stay can book condominiums at the resort. My room at the Marina Inn was large and comfortable and extremely convenient to the resort. I could have just parked my bike and just walked everywhere while I was there.

After arriving I picked up my key at the local convenience store and unpacked. After that I wandered over to "The Pavilion", which is where everyone tends to gather and meet. That afternoon I met several people from the Motorcycle Community Forum. I'm unsure what's so special about those on the forum, but even meeting for the first time we all were instant friends.

That evening the diner next door to the Marina Inn had a dinner buffet hosted by Mark Moses of the Charlotte Indian dealership and Justin Vandevort who is opening a dealership in Arkansas. Afterward there was live music outside, and the band was actually very good.

Later we all convened around the fire pit, where talk lasted into the early morning hours.

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Friday, May 16, 2014

I got up around 8am and walked next door to the diner for some coffee. I'm not much of a breakfast-guy, but they had a breakfast buffet so I dug in. The food was good, and just what a sleepy hung over guy needs. I wasn't hung over because I don't drink (much) anymore, but there were some there that were suffering the effects of the night before.

I sat with Mark Moses and Justin Vandevort while I ate. Our conversation was good and thought provoking. Both these men know their Indians and know how to run a dealership that's worthy of customer loyalty. My only hope is that my local Indian dealer in Littleton CO is run similar to the way these guys run their dealerships.

After breakfast I saw Hork unloading his KM Bomber from the trailer. Predictably he was having electrical problems with it; honesty if the lemon law applies he should seriously consider using it to either get his bike fixed once and for all, or for trading it for a new 2014 bike with all the bells and whistles. Maybe he could get Indian to custom paint a new Vintage for him in the Bomber style, which would be pretty darned sweet in my opinion.

Later a bunch of us decided to take a ride down to Eureka Springs, and Hork said would lead the way because he had a GPS installed and running on his Bomber. This being my first visit to the Branson area, I tucked myself right behind Hork and followed along as we left.

The ride out to Eureka Springs was everything a group ride should be; just a bunch of guys riding together, with no traffic, through beautiful scenery. The air was cool and a touch damp, and the sky was overcast. Anything short of rain, hail, or snow is good riding weather in my book.

Once in Eureka Springs we pulled into a parking lot in front of a Harley dealer, and I was wondering what the heck we were doing there. As it turned out the shopping center also hosted a good burger joint, where we all parked and made ourselves at home.

We ate, drank and talked up a storm. It was a great time. Indian Al picked up the tab for all of us, which was really nice of him to do.

When we pulled out of the parking lot and started on our way back to Indian Point, things got interesting.

Hork's GPS first decided to give us a thorough tour of the old Eureka Springs shopping district, then we scaled a windy, steeply inclined road that dead ended at some sort of resort. His GPS then turned us around and guided us back down the mountain and through an older housing district. This was actually a very enjoyable tour, and because I was not the one in charge of getting us back to Indian Point, I just rode along and enjoyed the scenery.

We wound up wandering on some back roads outside of town, and then Hork's GPS had us turn off on a dilapidated back country road. We were guided up a steep incline on a road covered with pot holes and decomposed tarmac. After a time I suspected we would eventually run into some Ozark Mountain Moonshiners, and the ride would then get very interesting.

I continued to ride behind Hork, steering around the pot holes but otherwise really enjoying the scenery. We were riding together in a group, and should we get further lost or anything weird happen, we would figure out the solution as a group together.

Near the top of the mountain we came upon a full sized display of Vietnam era jets and airplanes. These were mounted as they would be at a museum, but were behind a cyclone fence. So many questions raced through my mind; how did these aircraft get here over a twisting dilapidated road? And why are they here? We rode by the aircraft display, all of us staring in confusion and disbelief.

Soon Hork's GPS guided us down the other side of the mountain. The pat holes, scattered gravel, and off camber turns made the road a bit treacherous, but we all rode slowly and controlled our bikes well. We passed several intersecting dirt roads, but held to our course and eventually found our way to a well maintained highway.

After getting back on the main roads we made more u-turns than I can recall, and veered through a number of parking lots and gas stations. Eventually though we made it back to Indian Point. We had a nice ride through pretty country, and an adventure on the Arkansas back roads; it was in my view a near perfect group ride.

Later that evening, while sitting around the fire pit, I suggested that the course of our ride should be mapped so it can be followed every year at IRIP.

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

This would be my last full day at Indian Point. Many, maybe even most of the people had already left for home, and so the diner was not crowded. After breakfast I went off on a ride by myself.

Next year I plan to bring my wife to IRIP, and so I wanted to check out what the city of Branson had to offer. It turns out that it's kind of a country music "Las Vegas", but without the sleaze. It's a town that I wouldn't hesitate bringing my grandkids to.

I stopped once to take some pictures and ended up talking with a guy about my Indian for about a half hour. Then I stopped again because I like frozen custard. At Andy's Frozen Custard I treated myself to blue berry custard, and again ended up talking about my Indian to a car load of Harley riders.

Riding out from the back side of Branson I wandered a bit and then eventually returned to Indian point. I parked my bike at the Pavilion and then sat around chatting with the folks that were there. It wasn't long until I heard a familiar voice. It was a voice I had heard over the phone when I was planning my trip down east. It was DennyMusic, and I went over and introduced myself. Apparently I look different than my photo on the Indian Community Forum, because Denny didn't recognize me at first.

Denny's red Vintage has a fantastic southwest style paint job. It's absolutely beautiful.

He suggested we go for a ride, and so we saddled up and were quickly on our way. We had a good ride out toward Branson, out by a dam, then back up US-65 to MO-465. Once we hit MO-465 Denny took off like a bat out of hell. I think the speed limit on that road is about 55 or 60 mph, and I was working to keep up with Denny doing in excess of 90 mph. Fortunately there were no cops around.

That night the owners of the Hunter's Friend Resort at Indian Point hosted a BBQ dinner. The burger and potato salad and pie amounted to one of the best meals I had during my stay. The people running the resort are good, kind, and courteous people, and hosting a dinner for us was a very nice thing to do.

After dinner we all sat around the fire pit while Denny serenaded us on his guitar and harmonica. Denny is an accomplished musician, and I really enjoyed his music. That evening listening to music in the company of friends, seemed to be the best possible way to end my stay at IRIP. I'll definitely be back again next year.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Before heading back to my room the previous night, the headlight on my Vintage and flashed unusually. Everything seemed to be working fine, so I didn't give it a second thought at the time.

The following morning though, the check-engine light came on after I started my bike up. The bike was running fine though, and so I headed out on the first leg of my ride home.

My intention was to return through Oklahoma, and since there was an Indian dealership in Tulsa I thought I would stop there and have them check out the cause of the check-engine light. Being slow witted as I am most mornings, it took about 50 miles for me to realize that it was Sunday, and the Tulsa (or any other) dealer would not be open.

It was also occurred to me that the local dealers would be closed on Monday as well. So my options were: to get a hotel and stay in Tulsa for two days and then go to the dealer, or I could just chance it and get as far as I could toward home. The choice was an easy one; I rode through Tulsa and kept going.

Eastern Oklahoma is hill country, and quite a nice place to ride through. The further west you go though, the drier and flatter the landscape becomes. I followed US-412 all the way through the state, and eventually ended my day at a Day's Inn in Guymon, in the Oklahoma panhandle. There really isn't much to recommend about western Oklahoma, or especially the panhandle. All I can say is that anyone riding out that way should avoid it, because there's really not much there.

That night I checked the diagnostic codes thrown by the check-engine light and found that it was reading a short in the low beam headlamp. Thiswas obviously not something that would prevent me from riding home, and so I was really glad I had opted to NOT stay in Tulsa.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

It was a cool and clear day when I rode out and put Guymon OK into my rear view mirrors. That morning I continued to follow US-412 through Oklahoma into New Mexico, where I stopped for gas in the town of Clayton. From there I took US-87 west until I connected up with Interstate 25 where I turned north and headed for home.

I had one final stop in Walsenburg for fuel, where I also indulged in an A&W root beer float. It was hot out, and it had been a long ride, so I wanted a treat.

Just south of Colorado Springs my check-engine light and high beam indicator started to flash. I looked at the diagnostic code and it indicated another short, this time in my high beam headlight. My bike was running fine though, and so I continued my ride home.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

I brought my Indian to the Littleton dealer and had them fix whatever was wrong with my headlamp. All it turned out to be was a burnt out headlamp. Bulbs are not considered warranty items, but still all it cost me to have it fixed was $7. Not bad.

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 + Open : 2014 - Area 51

June 2014 - Area 51

"What most people don't understand is that UFOs are on a cosmic tourist route. That's why they're always seen in Arizona, Scotland, and New Mexico. Another thing to consider is that all three of those destinations are good places to play golf. So there's possibly some connection between aliens and golf."
      - Alice Cooper

Monday, June 9, 2014: Cortez CO (378 miles)

It was a clear and beautiful Colorado morning. I sat out on my back deck finishing my second cup of coffee with my boots resting on our cracked mosaic table, and watched the golden sunshine bathe the Front Range Mountains as they spread out across the western horizon before me. The sky was a clear deep blue, the air was crisp, and I was bound for California.

There is something of a Traveler, as we Irish Gypsies are sometimes called, in every biker or motorcyclist. Even though beauty surrounds us where we are, we remain restless. The road, the possibility of adventure, and the lure of distant horizons puts an itch in our feet, a twitch in our throttle hand, and no matter how wonderful things are where we are, we are compelled to move on.

As I've gotten older I've shortened the number of hours I ride each day while traveling. In times past I would consider a 700 or 800 mile ride an easy day, but now I try to keep the number of miles I ride each day so something around 500 miles. This allows more time to stop here and there for pictures and to enjoy the experience of traveling a little more.

So with my last cup of coffee finished, I went inside and geared up and got ready to ride. My bags were packed and already strapped to my bike so I pulled it out into the bright morning and it warm up as I said goodbye to my wife and closed up the garage. Soon I was on my way.

I think the first few miles are the best part of a long journey. Everything lies ahead, and anything is possible. My 2014 Indian Vintage was running flawlessly as always, she purred pleasantly as I rode through our neighborhood as I headed for the freeway.

Initially starting out my main goal is usually to get away from familiar surroundings as quickly as possible. Some people chastise me for taking the Interstate as much as I do, but there really no faster way to get those first miles behind you than taking the freeway.

Interstate-25 south took me out of Colorado Springs, through Pueblo, and finally to the town of Walsenburg. After exiting the freeway I picked up fuel and then headed west on highway US-160. The road took me north of the Spanish Peaks then over the La Vita Pass and finally into the San Luis Valley.

The valley is generally pretty desolate and a rather dull ride. Of note in the area is the Great Sand Dunes National Park. These sand dunes started forming about 440,000 years ago and are the tallest dunes in North America, reaching heights of 750 feet. Some years ago my wife and I spent a weekend staying at cabins within the park. There isn't a lot to do there, but the clear night sky, so full of stars is a stunning thing to behold.

Beyond Alamosa the landscape became interesting again. I passed through the head waters of the Rio Grande River at Del Norte, and then continued on following US-160 into the San Luis Mountains. The landscape became lush as I climbed out of the valley following a winding stream. Ahead the sky was darkening with gray troubled clouds standing between me and my destination for the day.

Not long after passing through South Fork rain began to fall, and it fell hard and fast. There was no intermediate state of light rain, at one moment I was riding through warm and dry air, and the next I was struggling not to drown in a torrential down pour. Then after only a few minutes of deluge, the rain stopped as quickly as it started, and before long I found myself riding through sunny pleasant weather again. This sort of weather is typical of "Monsoon Season" in Colorado which usually runs from July through August. With it being only June, it seemed that Monsoon Season in Colorado had come early.

US-160 climbs into the San Luis Mountains; it's a beautiful ride, but just one of many such rides in Colorado. Beyond the Wolf Creek Ski area the road climbs sharply, cresting at the Wolf Creek Pass at 10,857 feet. I've had other motorcycles that did not handle altitude very well, but my new 2014 Vintage has absolutely no problem with it.

Beyond the pass the road drops sharply, but by down-shifting I was able to keep off the brakes. As the road winds downward, there's a viewpoint off to the right which I recommend should anyone ever be in that area. The viewpoint is at the top of a cliff that drops what must be over a thousand feet down toward the town of Pagosa Springs. It's an incredible view which I have tired many times to capture with my camera, and have never really succeeded in doing so.

I descended into the valley west of Pagosa Springs and rode through lush landscape filled with trees and quiet lakes. The town of Pagosa Springs is named for the hot springs there, the deepest geothermal springs in the world. The day was heating up, so while getting gas I ditched my leather jacket for a t-shirt and my Indian leather vest.

Traveling west of Pagosa Springs the climate dried out; the further west I went, the drier it became. It was still a nice ride, but I could feel the heat of the western desert in the hot wind as it scorched its way across my exposed arms and face. I got through the congestion of Durango and hurried on toward Cortez, which was my destination for the day.

In Cortez I found a room at an Economy Inn on the main street with a Denny's Restaurant right across the street; this was a perfect location in my opinion. There were a lot of other motorcycles there as well, notably Harleys were numerous. I parked where I could see my bike from my room and set in for the night.

It had been a good day riding, perfect actually. It occurs to me though, that every day in the saddle is a perfect day, no matter what trial or tribulation is encountered.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014: Rachel NV & Area 51 (580 miles)

The day started sunny, clear, and cool. I was bound to cross most of the western deserts and stay at an Inn near the fabled Area 51, so I knew that before long I would be struggling with the dry desert heat. The odd thing is that through-out the last winter, when I was enduring rides through temperatures in the upper 20's to low 30's, I was dreaming of riding days through temperatures such as I expected today. Those dreams probably fall into the category of "be careful what you wish for."

I fueled up before leaving Cortez and headed west on US-160 toward the Four Corners Monument. If you are ever in the area, don't bother stopping in to see the monument. It's simply a monument to some imaginary lines on a map that happen to intersect. You have to pay to get in to see this monument to the folly of man's imagination, and the only thing else that's there are stalls of people wanting to sell you Indian jewelry. On this day I just rode my bike up to park in front of the entrance sign, took a picture, and was soon on my way again.

It's an interesting contrast to ride from the wet and lush beauty of Pagosa Springs out through the scorched and lonely deserts of Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. The desert is harsh and nature so unforgiving that if you intend to ride through this area, plan your fuel stops in advance because gas stations are few and far between. The area is remote, with small anemic towns scattered here and there. It's one of those places that when you ride through, you wonder how people manage to live there.

One of the wonderful things about riding a motorcycle is that you get to experience the in-between places. These are the places you would never visit for their own sake, but lie between where you are and where you want to go. In riding through these places you see remarkable and amazing things; you experience landscapes you could not otherwise even imagine. I rode for hours through the stark but somehow beautiful and otherworldly landscape. There is a kind of solitude and an odd sense of serenity in these surroundings that cannot be found otherwise.

By 9am temperatures were edging into the 90's, and I knew the day held more challenges ahead. I stopped for gas in Kayenta AZ, where I also replaced my leather jacket for a t-shirt and vest. Soon after Kayenta I turned north toward Lake Powell on SR-98. You know you're in a remote area when horizon to horizon you are the only vehicle on the road, see no sign of power lines, and the only thing for miles and miles are you and the road, and more miles and miles.

Lake Powell is a bit like Las Vegas in that as you ride through, you wonder what the hell this place is doing in the middle of all this desolation. I rode across the dam and entered Utah on US-89. Beyond Lake Powell the landscape was just more of the same; the "Great Fried Empty" I usually call places like this. There's really nothing to see there beyond seemingly endless miles of sun beaten, devastated, barren terrain.

I got fuel again in Kanab UT, then dodged south on US-89A back into Arizona temporarily where I picked up SR-389 that took me back into Utah on SR-59. I was still roaring through the Great Fried Empty in temperatures in the mid 90's when I turned and descended into the town of Hurricane UT. It was a short but steep downhill section of road, but in that brief stretch the temperature rose 10 degrees. It was 105 F when I arrived in downtown Hurricane.

Once in town I picked up SR-9 then suffered waiting at a few stop lights, then eventually made my way to Interstate-15 and headed south toward Las Vegas. The freeway continued to descend and the temperature continued to rise. Construction in the Virgin River Canyon stopped traffic, and for a while I sat in the scorching heat with my engine off waiting for a southbound lane to open up. The temperature gage on my Vintage was reading 115 F when I reached Mesquite NV and stopped for gas.

After filling up I was still feeling overheated, so I parked my bike and went inside. For a time I sat at a table drinking a Gatorade, letting my body cool and re-hydrate. When riding in the heat, it's always a good idea to take a break and get out of the heat for a little while. In this situation water or a sport drink are good options, drinking beer though is not such a good idea.

Back on the freeway the heat continued to pound me. It felt like someone holding a hot iron against the exposed skin of my arms. After about 30 miles I took the exit for Moapa and SR-168 and rode north out into the desert. The road climbed a little bit in elevation and the air began to cool down, it was quite a relief. When I check my thermometer it read 109 F. I guess you know that you were in hot temperatures when a drop to 109 F feels good.

At the intersection of US-93 I saw a truck broken down at the side of the road. There were several members of a Hispanic family there and they seemed a bit worried about what to do. I stopped and asked if they needed help, but no one spoke English, so I made my turn north on US-93 and continued on.

After turning north on US-93 there was a straight stretch of almost 30 miles with absolutely nothing to see. The Nevada desert is a bleak and barren place, and riding through areas such as this can be a mind numbing experience, but rides such this can be good for working through problems and just thinking. I usually find myself reminiscing about old times and people I have known. I can entertain myself well enough in these situations that a radio is never necessary.

After riding 90 miles since filling up in Mesquite I came into the vague collection of homes and businesses that make up the town of Alamo. As I entered the town it occurred to me that I may not be able to get gas at my final stop for the day in Rachel. I was rolling through a pretty remote area, and so decided not to take the chance of running out of fuel. I stopped at a Sinclair gas station and filled up.

About 20 miles further down the road, just as I turned on to SR-375, which is also known as the Extraterrestrial Highway, I saw a sign that read, "Next Gas 150 Miles." Apparently fuel was not available in Rachel so it was a good thing I filled up in Alamo, because I would never have made the 260 miles from Mesquite to Tonopah. The desert can be a very unforgiving place either day or night. Being stranded at the side of a lonely road in this environment is a life experience I'd much prefer to avoid.

The Sun was beginning to set behind the mountains to the west as I continued north on SR-375. I rode along long stretches of absolutely nothing, with no sign of human habitation other than the road itself. The soil there appears to be only gravel, and the plants that grow there are as tough as the environment that fosters them. Several times I saw small white creatures running across the road in front of me. Later I would discover that these were white Scorpions, one of the few creatures that can survive in this unforgiving place. To say the area is desolate does not go far enough to describe the harshness and hostility of the place.

After a long and lonely ride, I came to the town of Rachel NV and turned into the parking lot for the Little A'Le'Inn. Some years ago I happened on a web page for this place, and the name caught my eye. Being right at the edge of the mysterious Area 51, the Little A'Le'Inn seems an apt name for a place to stay.

The Inn consists of a small house hosting a restaurant and bar, and the visitor accommodations are single wide trailers that have been sectioned out to make individual rooms. The people who work there and run the place are extremely friendly and nice. They run 4x4 tours of the area, and cater to a lot of people who believe there are actual people from other planets over at the nearby military base at Area 51. For myself, the only the Aliens I saw were the possibly illegal ones that were broken down at the side of US-93.

I had a great time at the Little A'Le'Inn. The dinner I had in the bar was excellent, and I very much enjoyed the conversations I had with the local people who work there. We talked for several hours over dinner and a couple of drinks. The people I met were smart, interesting, and had many fun stories to tell.

That night I went outside at about midnight to look at the stars. The sky was ablaze with stars; there were so many, I had forgotten what the night sky actually looks like. Native Americans called the span of the Milky Way across the sky the "Backbone of Night", which seems a beautifully poetic way to describe it. This view of the night sky was worth every bit of the trouble and discomfort it took to get to this place to see it.

I highly recommend stopping by the Little A'Le'Inn if you happen by, or if you are abducted by Aliens, tell them they can drop you off there.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014: Mono Lake & Yosemite (424 miles)

It had been a wonderful evening at the Little A'Le'Inn. I had purchased firewood at the main building and had a nice camp fire outside the single wide trailer where I was staying. I was joined at fireside by several people who had arrived in RV's, and we had talked until the last of the wood was only glowing embers.

So the next morning I was feeling the effect of too little sleep and the prospect of another long ride through the colorless monotonous desert felt daunting. So I went into the Restaurant and pounded down three cups of coffee, and thus fortified I hit the road.

Turning north on US-93 the road stretched straight as a frozen rope going slightly uphill for 30 miles. Then the rode turned a bit and again I found myself riding over tarmac that ran straight to the hazy horizon. Time and time again I would travel over tedious unbending highway only to crest a hill or round a turn to find my path reaching straight to the horizon and there to vanish again.

When I finally turned in to Tonopah Station for fuel, my head felt thick and dull regardless of the three cups of coffee I had consumed earlier. I drank a cold Starbucks coffee purchased from the convenience store and shed my leather jacket in favor of my vest and t-shirt. After that I felt much more alive and was ready for the road again.

I followed US-6 across mind numbing high desert expanses for what seemed an eternity. Finally I reached the town of Benton CA and picked up CA-120 and continued west toward Mono Lake.

Soon after Benton I found myself riding on one of the most unusual roads I've ever encountered. Although straight the road felt like a rollercoaster. Dips that were 5 to 10 feet deep occurred at roughly 20 foot intervals, and this continued for perhaps 2 miles or so. It was a crazy sensation having the bottom drop out from under me and feeling nearly weightless, to suddenly the road rising sharply upward and squashing the suspension on my bike. The dips were frequent and the drops and rises were very severe; riding it was an extraordinary experience.

When Mono Lake came into view I stopped and took some pictures. It's quite a sight to see, with parts of the landscape looking other-worldly. I got gas at the Tioga Gas Mart, and then entered Yosemite National Park from the east.

The east side of Yosemite is a truly beautiful ride, but I must admit that after living in Colorado for a number of years, I was not overly impressed. It was nice, but not really that big of a deal as far as I'm concerned. I rode at a leisurely pace through the park and stopped several times to take pictures. It was a very enjoyable day.

Eventually I wound out of the mountains and turned south to enter the Yosemite Valley, and I must say that riding the valley floor is an incredible experience. I again took my time and took pictures here and there. Being that it was mid-week, the crowds were not so terrible, and traffic was never an issue. Too soon I found myself exiting the park and heading west on CA-120.

Soon after getting fuel at the Claim Jumper Outpost and continuing to follow CA-120 I came to another interesting section of road. Right at Priest Station the road curves to the right then sharply descends, while following the edge of a low range of hills. The turns tighten and become a bit challenging, in time though the road straightens and the fun ends.

I had intended to spend the night in Jamestown, but could not find the motel where I wanted to stay. So I got back on the road and eventually found refuge for the night in Oakdale CA.

It had been another good day on the road. Riding Yosemite Valley was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.

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Thursday, June 12, 2014: Pleasanton CA (63 miles)

I timed my ride from Oakdale to Pleasanton CA such that I would miss the morning commute traffic. As industry has grown and property prices have skyrocketed, people have moved further out and suffer long commutes. Traffic congestion is and will always be an issue in the SF bay area, and when riding there it's best to do what you can to avoid the worst of it.

The morning was cool but sunny, and it was an easy and quick ride. Interstate-580 was, as it has been for at least the last 20 years, in a state of construction and very congested.

I had reservations at the Pleasanton Motel 6, but had arrived far too early to check- in, so instead I stopped at Arlen Ness's Indian dealership to have a look around. I visited the museum there and looked around for a Indian dealer shirt. I was told there were no dealer shirts yet and the lady in charge of the motor clothes there was in the process of ordering them.

My wife and I lived in Pleasanton for close to 20 years. I remember the town when it had growth limits. This was before Hacienda Ranch became Hacienda Business Park and became a maze of tall buildings hosting high-tech companies and condominium complexes, before the two lane roads around town became six lane expressways, and before the rough down town area became trendy and full of fancy restaurants.

My daughter lives in nearby Dublin, and so my visit there was to see her and her family. She and her husband have a nice house they share with their two children. I was set to have dinner with them that night, however during the day she and her husband worked and so I was on my own during the daylight hours.

After visiting Arlen's dealership I rode around town and stopped by the neighborhoods where my wife and I used to live. In terms of home value, Pleasanton and the surrounding area have held up really well. The neighborhoods I remember are much the same as they were, with well-maintained houses, lush tree lined streets, and nice neighborhood parks. I stopped in and visited old friends and had a good time catching up with them all.

I checked in to my motel in the afternoon, and had time to get situated before riding over to my Daughter's house for dinner. Dinner was at a burger place called "The Habit"; it's a decent place although a bit trendy for me.

The evening with my grandkids was really great. My 4 year old grandson is intrigued with my motorcycle, much to the chagrin of his mother who wants him to have nothing to do with it. We all had a nice dinner together then sat out in their backyard and had a nice chat.

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Friday June 13, 2014: Around the bay area

Eamon, who is one of my closest friends, happened to be in the SF bay area that week, and so we met for lunch. Eamon is a Design Engineer by trade and lives out in Kansas. He does have to travel occasionally for work, and I was fortunate enough to be able to meet up with him on this trip. This being a business trip for him, Eamon did not have his motorcycle with him, and so we met up at a Sweet Tomatoes Restaurant and took a long lunch to catch up.

He had not seen my Indian, and so he checked it out carefully. From what he said about the bike, I can see him buying one for himself in the future.

After lunch I rode out to the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Earlier this year I had ridden my 2014 Vintage out to Key West FL, then up to the Outer Banks of NC. While at the Outer Banks I got a picture of my bike sitting at the beach. So I thought it would be fun to get a picture of my Vintage next to the Pacific Ocean so I could have pictorial documentation that I book-ended the country this year.

Because lunch with Eamon had run late, I only had time for a quick ride out to the beach where I could snap a picture, then hurry back to Dublin where I was to meet my Daughter and her family for dinner. I did get a pretty good picture of my bike at Pescadero Beach, so my book-ends were complete.

That night I again had dinner with my Daughter and her family. My youngest grandchild, a granddaughter, was slowly warming up to me. If I looked at her she wouldn't instantly burst out crying, which was an improvement. I just have that kind of effect on girls I guess.

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Saturday, June 14, 2014: Family

I spent Saturday hanging out with my Daughter and her family. My Son in Law is a carpenter, and now works as a supervisor at a construction company that specializes in revitalizing old apartment buildings. He has done a lot of work on their house, including remodeling their kitchen and bathrooms. His current project is to repair a previous owner's remodel that combined an existing bedroom with the master bedroom. He is de-constructing this remodel and turning the previously combined bedroom into a home office. He does really good work, and at times I wish they lived closer to my house because I'd like to use his services.

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Sunday, June 15, 2014: Hollister

Ben is my closest and oldest friend. Our time together goes back to when both my parents were in prison and I was being kept in a Foster Home. It was a rough time, and Ben was a good friend to me then, and we've remained close ever since. Ben is one of those very few people I'd take a bullet for without hesitation.

He has done well in his life and career and still lives in the bay area. He lives in is Palo Alto, which is a pretty pricy address; at one time Steve Young (ex-QB for the SF 49ers) and Steve Jobs (Apple Inc. founder and CEO) were his neighbors.

I met Ben at a Coffee House on University Avenue in Palo Alto. We had coffee together and caught up a bit, then went outside to gear up for a ride. While we were getting ready Ben took the opportunity to look over my new bike. Ben is a Harley guy and that's never going to change, but he did admit that my Indian looked pretty darned good.

He had other commitments that day and so we only had time enough for a ride down to Hollister. It was a little cool out and I think Ben was under dressed a bit, but it was a good ride. Riding with Ben brought back a lot of memories of our times together as kids, then later in College, and still later throughout our lives. Some of those memories were sweet, and others when I thought of friends lost over the years were tinged with pain.

It being Sunday, almost everything in Hollister was closed. We cruised up and down San Benito Street, and eventually found a diner where we went in and had breakfast. We had a long conversation, and it felt good to catch up.

The ride back was pleasant as the day warmed. We waved as we parted at the junction of I-680 and US-101. As I've gotten older I find myself wondering when I wave farewell to any of my friends, will this be the last time I see them? Life is a short and hazardous enterprise, and none of us are getting out of this mess alive, so you never know.

I spent the rest of the day with my Daughter and her family. The main event of the day for me was that my Granddaughter actually let me hold her without protesting.

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Monday, June 16, 2014: Ely NV (580 miles)

I left early on a sunny beautiful morning. California is well known for its nearly perfect weather, and its reputation is completely justified. The sky was a clear blue, the sun was bright, and the air was perfectly crisp.

I rode out to the San Joaquin Valley, the heart of California agriculture, via Interstate-580 then proceeded north on Interstate-5. I was set to take the scenic CA-4 route through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, then head east on "The Loneliest Highway" aka. US-50 and spend the night either in Eureka or Elko NV.

Leaving the Interstate highway behind I struck out on CA-4 and almost immediately became ensnared in construction traffic. One lane was closed and the construction crew was alternating which direction got to go. I was unlucky enough to hit the construction right as my direction was given the stop sign and told to wait. The weather was good and I was in no hurry, so I shut my bike down and walked around a bit.

Eventually we were allowed to proceed and we headed up into the mountains. There really isn't a bad route to take through the Sierra Nevada; even Interstate-80 is scenic and a nice ride. I followed the route higher into the mountains, eventually cresting Ebbetts Pass where the road shrinks to what amounts to a generous one lane road with two way traffic. There were very few cars on the road though, and so my travel was unimpeded, uneventful, and enjoyable.

In time my route merged with CA-88, then US-395 which took me into Reno NV. In Reno I had hoped to find an Indian Dealer and possibly buy a t-shirt; in the end though I could not find the address as listed on the Indian web site, and so the detour through Reno was a waste of time.

I picked up I-80 and followed it east to Fernley where I exited and picked up US-50. If you are ever traveling "The Loneliest Highway" be sure to pick up gas in Fallon, because after that it's 110 miles to the next sign of civilization.

About 50 miles east of Fallon is the Shoe Tree, which is worth a stop. Legend has it that back in the 80's a man and his fiancé were heading for Reno to get married. Apparently she got cold feet and wanted to get out of the car. To prevent his future wife from escaping, the groom tossed her shoes high into a large Cottonwood tree at the side of the road. Since that time others have added their shoes to the decoration, and the tree became something of a monument and tourist stop.

Unfortunately back in 2010 vandals chopped down the original shoe tree, which is a testimony to the mean spirit that seems to be at the heart of the human condition. However a nearby tree has taken up the mantle and the shoe tree is again with us. So if you have a pair of old shoes, you know where you can dispose of them.

After a brief stop for a few pictures I continued east on US-50. As it turns out "The Loneliest Highway" is really not nearly as lonely as the route I took out to Area-51 and beyond. However it remains an interesting ride that's perfect for introspection. You can even buy "I Survived the Loneliest Highway" pins and bumper stickers along the way.

I ended the day at the Motel-6 in Ely NV. I've stayed at this motel before and have been satisfied, but the place must be under new management, because it has has gone to pot. My room had torn curtains and the bathroom fixtures leaked and made a racket through the night. I may try this Motel-6 again because it's a convenient place to stop, but if the condition of the rooms does not improve I won't return after that.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014: Home (720 miles)

I awoke to a clear and sunny morning. On this day there was no certain destination, my thinking was to ride until I was tired and then find a place for the night. So I packed up all my gear and got it strapped on my bike while enjoying a couple of cups of free Motel-6 coffee.

The desert can be much colder than one might expect, especially early in the morning or late at night. I bundled up accordingly and headed east on US-50 toward Delta UT.

It's about 150 miles between Ely and Delta which can be comfortably made on one tank of gas. However if someone were to skip getting gas in Ely, they would be in for a long walk. A few years back a gas station opened right on the Nevada – Utah border, so I suppose even a new Indian Scout could make the ride now.

The ride is long and dull for the most part, but there is one short stretch through a mountainous area which usually comes as something of a relief. I find it curious that people live out there; what I mean is that while I like some distance between myself and my neighbors, a two hour drive to pick up groceries is a bit much.

I got gas in Delta, then at Selina UT, then again at Green River UT, and from there on I was riding Interstate-70. As far as Interstates go, I-70 through the Rockies is a very nice ride. If you're out that way, be sure to stop at the Glenwood Canyon viewpoint. During the spring, riding alongside the raging Colorado River through the narrow thousand foot deep canyon is an amazing experience.

It was getting later in the day, and I kept thinking that I would stop for the night in Rifle, or Eagle, or one of the other towns on my way, but I was on a roll and I just kept going. I crested the two 11,000+ foot passes and soon found myself descending into Denver.

My wife was surprised to see me arrive a day earlier than I planned. All I can say about that is my Indian Vintage is simply a very comfortable bike to ride on a long haul.

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 + Open : 2014 - Northwest

August 2014 - Northwest

"Is there something we have forgotten? Some precious thing we have lost, wandering in strange lands?"
      - Arna Bontemps

Initially this entire adventure sprung from a desire to revisit Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada. The last time I was there was back in 1977 or 1978 on a solo motorcycle trip. I recall it as a breath taking place, so beautiful that a person becomes fixated and just stares and stares trying to take it all in.

I had begun planning a route up and back that would take about a week to complete. Fortunately my wife suggested that I check on whether a passport would be needed for travel there. I didn't have a passport the last time, and assumed that things had not changed. Well they have. No passport is necessary to leave the USA and enter Canada, but one is required for the return. So my plans changed, and the route taken for this trip was the result.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014: Spearfish SD (464 miles)

This adventure began as many do, sitting on my back deck having coffee with my wife. It was a cool and crisp Colorado morning with the Front Range bathed in golden sunlight, stretching across the western horizon. As we sat on our deck enjoying the view and drinking our coffee, my wife and I spoke of small things, as older couples often do.

My daughter and grand-daughter were coming over for the day, and would probably spend the night. At our house we host a mixed brood of cats and dogs, and so under normal conditions our home is humble and has an earthy nature. However for my wife this earthiness is unacceptable whenever we have guests, so she planned to execute her usual "white tornado" house cleaning prior to our daughter's arrival. She prefers to not have me around during her scouring of our home because I tend to get in her way; I prefer this arrangement due to the fact that anything not nailed down quickly ends up in the trash, and finding myself in the trash bin is something I'd rather avoid. So in truth, that morning I was glad to be leaving.

With coffees finished and the day warming rapidly, it was time to be on my way. I soon packed up my bike and had it running while I donned my riding gear. Just as I threw my leg over the saddle, my wife came out of the house to take a picture of me before I left as she often does. She posts these on Facebook so family and friends are aware that I am leaving on yet again another adventure.

With photos taken and goodbyes said, I rode out of our development with a smile on my face. Nothing is as exciting as the start of a motorcycle adventure; I had no plan other than to head to the north-west.

In fact the one and only goal of this ride was to re-visit the town of Yachats on the Oregon Coast, where I would stop by Leroy's Blue Whale restaurant to enjoy a piece of their wonderful blue berry pie. While it's true that a thousand miles is a long way to go for pie, it does provide a destination, and for me a destination is just an excuse to travel. Riding a motorcycle is about the journey, experiencing the spaces between here and there, and so the true purpose is not the destination or even the pie.

After a quick gas stop, I hit I-25 north, passing over the Palmer Divide and riding through Denver. The city of Denver, like all other large cities, is a dangerous place to ride a motorcycle. And so it is that with speed limits varying between 50 and 75 mph, actual speeds varying between 40 and 90 mph, near constant road construction, insanely aggressive city drivers, and the local police anxious to issue tickets to bolster the city coffers, once the city is behind me I breathe a sigh of relief.

To the north of Denver the Interstate swings away from the mountains, and while there is always something interesting to look at, I must admit the ride becomes much less scenic. I got gas in Cheyanne WY, and returned to the freeway to continue north.

After a while it occurred to me that I would like to visit the new Indian dealer in Sturgis, so I left the Interstate north of Wheatland WY and headed north-east toward the town of Lusk WY. The scenery there consists of low rolling hills and prairie. At one point I came to a junction in a small town where my only direction came from a hand painted wooden sign advising me to turn left toward the Black Hills.

Continuing north from Lusk toward Newcastle, the scenery becomes pretty darned forgettable. Flat prairie stretches to the horizon in all directions with no traffic to speak of, and so I had nothing for entertainment beyond what little can be found within my own mind. I mentally calculated distance, time, and fuel mileage, then listened to the voices in my head argue over things that don't actually matter. In short, it was an entertaining ride because I'm never bored when I'm by myself. Bored people are usually the most boring among us.

The scenery changes markedly after Newcastle, and soon I was riding over low mountains and through lush, tree filled valleys. Generally speaking, the Black Hills offer many beautiful rides and the roads are well cared for and in good shape, howver personal opinion is that aside from attractions such as Mount Rushmore, Colorado offers much more beautiful scenery and better riding.

Even though the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally had ended two weeks before, the town of Deadwood was surprisingly crowded. Those crowds were enough to keep me from stopping in the old town, and so I kept on US-14 ALT and headed into the town of Sturgis.

Taken as itself alone, the town of Sturgis SD is an ugly little place. It's flat, dusty, and unremarkable. The town's one and only saving grace is its proximity to the Black Hills, and it remains popular regardless of the fact that there are many other places to stay that are much more pleasant and scenic.

I found the Indian dealer on Lazelle Street and parked in their tiny parking lot. At the dealer I was greeted with indifference and pretty much ignored. This is in stark contrast to the reception I have received at first class Indian dealers such as Charlotte NC, Hollister CA, and of course at Littleton CO. I was put off by this cold shouldered reception, but still bought a t-shirt to commemorate my visit.

After stashing my t-shirt away in my luggage, I cruised up and down Lazelle Street just for the spectacle of there being no traffic. With everything seen that was worth seeing in Sturgis, I hit Interstate-90 going west.

I got off the freeway at Spearfish exit and headed into town. Being the cheapskate that I am, I pulled in at a nice but low keyed place called Bell's Motor Lodge and paid only $35 for my night's stay. My room was small, but comfortable and adequate for my needs. That evening I ate dinner at a Perkins Restaurant at the edge of town.

Later in the evening, after looking at Google Maps I decided to head further north and ride US-2 through Montana, Idaho, and Washington out to the coast. This day had been a good one, but as usual I was looking forward to what would come next.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014: Great Falls MT (577 miles)

A gray and wet dawn greeted me when I emerged from my room that morning.

I had recently re-dyed my distressed tan leather seats because they had faded significantly in the 10 months I had my bike. On this morning, with my bike having been exposed to the sun less than a week, I noticed that my leather had already suffered significant fading.

When I would return from this trip I would contact Indian regarding this fading issue. In the end, Indian replaced all my leather accessories with new black leather (as was my preference) at no cost to me. Regarding this I have to give Indian Customer Service an A+ for really stepping up and fixing the fading problem properly.

Unaware of what would happen with my leather in the future, I was upset that morning when I saw how fast the re-dye had faded. I took photos of the fading, vowing to myself to post them on-line when I returned home.

I tried to put all these thoughts behind me as I rode away from Bell's Motor Lodge. The town was quiet and I was the only one on the road. The air was cool and wet as I slowly rode through the streets, making my way toward the Interstate.

After getting on I-90, I began to think that I had not seen Devils Tower for something along the lines of 15 years. With that in mind I got off the freeway and picked up US-14 and rode out to the park entrance. I pulled into the gift shop parking lot and decided that this was as far as I would go. I only wanted to stop to take a quick picture, so paying the $10 entrance fee seemed to be more than the photo was worth.

The gift shop parking lot was completely empty with the exception of me and two other guys on Harleys. I could tell these guys were die-hard Harley loyalists by the way they frowned and glared at my Indian. As I was taking my helmet off, one fellow asked loudly with a tinge of anger in his voice, "Is that thing water cooled?"

"No," I answered. "The engine is air cooled with oil cooled heads." This seemed to irritate him even more, and in response he grunted and walked into the gift store.

In terms of longevity and performance, water cooled engines are a good thing because the engine can be built to tighter tolerances. However I've never liked the aesthetics of a large radiator on a motorcycle. I consider the oil and air cooling used on my TS-111 engine to be the perfect compromise between function and aesthetics. The fact that the Harley die-hard's don't like it is just another perk of owning and riding an Indian.

This Harley enthusiast was looking for some reason to believe that his motorcycle, based on a 1930's design, was somehow superior to the modern design of my 2014 Indian Chief Vintage. When he did not find the fault he was hoping for, it upset him and he walked off in a huff. I'm used to this sort of attitude that's common with a few Harley riders. As is said, "Haters gotta hate." For myself I never criticize another person's motorcycle, because no matter the motorcycle, if a person is riding they deserve my respect.

I went into the gift shop and said hello to the other riders there, but didn't make much conversation beyond that. I bought a couple of pins as souvenirs to put on a tack board in my office at home. Once outside again I took a few pictures of Devil's Tower, and was soon on my way again.

My Indian Vintage is the perfect bike for me. It handles exceptionally well, and is a dream to ride on long trips. The best feature by far when riding the Interstate is the cruise control. Cruise control is such a luxury that I'm usually surprised to find it on a motorcycle, but on long distance cruisers and touring bikes it is essential. Any long trip is so much easier when you can rest your throttle hand, and even give your right arm a break and steer with your left. My Vintage is easy to ride and smooth beyond any other bike I've ever experienced.

Back on I-90 I took the speed up to 90 mph and set the cruise control and relaxed leaning back on the rider's back rest with my feet propped up on the highway pegs. My bike glided down the freeway, flying past cars, trucks, and other motorcycles. I gave a wave as I passed the motorcycles and received the same in return.

I actually saw some people traveling on scooters. This surprised me because scooters are not really touring vehicles, and yet there they were packed up for a long haul rolling down the Interstate at about 60 mph.

About an hour after leaving Devil's Tower I noticed that I was burning through my fuel faster than I would have liked. There were no gas stations to be found after passing Gillette WY, and I began to fret over whether or not I would make it to the next gas station. My Vintage has a 5.5 gallon fuel tank, and right about then I was wishing that Indian had given us a 6 gallon tank instead.

I made it to Buffalo WY without incident and pulled into the first gas station I saw. I had run about 160 miles on this tank of fuel, and regardless of my gas gage indicating that I was nearly empty it took only 4.5 gallons to fill up.

After gassing up I parked my bike next to the station convenience store and went in for a cup of coffee. I had neglected getting a cup of coffee that morning, and as I'm somewhat addicted to caffeine I sometimes get headaches when I go without my morning dosage, so a coffee break was definitely in order.

One unusual thing I saw at that gas station was a Honda Goldwing motorcycle with a trailer hauling a Harley Fat Boy. That was the only time I've ever seen one motorcycle hauling another.

There were a couple of other guys on Goldwings there at the gas station, and we chatted a bit. We each complemented each other's bikes, talked about where we had come from and where we were going. It was a normal conversation between bikers that respect each other for being on the road.

Back on the freeway again I headed north toward Billings MT. I've ridden this route many times before, and there's really nothing special or wonderful about it. The freeway rolls over low hills covered with dry yellow grass. Before leaving Wyoming the Bighorn Mountains can be seen to the west, but they disappear shortly before crossing the Montana border.

My gas gage was indicating that I was again low on fuel when I fueled up in Billings. The fuel warnings don't bother me now that I know how much gas I have once they start sounding off. A fuel gage on a motorcycle doesn't have to be accurate; it just needs to be consistent.

I left Billings on State Route 3 which took me up the face of some cliffs and then followed along the cliff edge by the airport. The view was nice from up there, and I saw a few places for people to park at night to enjoy the view, and probably each other as well.

I followed SR-3 for what seemed to be a long time through flat and unremarkable landscape. Eventually I turned west on US-12, and rode alongside a creek through a fertile valley sprinkled with farms. In time I came to the outskirts of the town of Harlowton, where I got fuel at Ray's Sports and Western Ware. This was a pretty neat little store, and I went in and had a cup of coffee.

After pulling out of the gas station I turned right on US-191, and saw a sign that turns touring motorcycle riders blood cold. The sign read "Pavement Ends". Now a smarter man would have turned around and found another route, but I'm just not that guy, so I continued on at a slow pace in 2nd gear.

The road was under construction and was uneven, bumpy, and consisted of varying sections of packed gravel and decomposed tarmac. My next stop in Great Falls MT was 130 miles away, and I was hoping the road would improve before I got there.

As it turned out my wish came true. After about 5 miles the construction ended and the pavement resumed. It was clear sailing from there on.

Close to Great Falls the dull scenery improved, notably the town of Belt which is nestled in a narrow valley next to a beautiful creek seemed especially attractive. As the sun began to set I rode into Great Falls and found a Super-8 motel where I would spend the night. My room was comfortable, I had a safe place to park my bike, there was Wi-Fi, and a family style restaurant was nearby, what more could I possibly ask for?

Dinner that night was pot roast at the local restaurant. I spent a relaxing evening talking on line with my wife, and looking at Google maps of where I wanted to go the next day.

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Monday, August 18, 2014: Spokane WA (464 miles)

I enjoyed my Super-8 coffee and toast and got ready for the day. The previous evening I had looked on google maps and saw a route that would let me connect to US-2 and take me through Browning MT. I had visited Browning in 2012 while riding up to the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier NP. I had ridden my 2010 Indian Darkhorse on that trip, which was an adventure in and of itself.

It was a sunny morning but the air felt damp and cold, so I had bundled up with a sweater under my leather jacket. My mind was kind of all over the place that morning, remembering my trip on my Darkhorse back in 2012, then thinking about the faded leather on my new Vintage, all this was a distraction. I tried to put all these thoughts out of my head while getting gas across the street from my motel.

I rode through town, then connected with Interstate-15 and headed north. It was 70 miles to my exit so I had time to relax and just enjoy the scenery. After getting off the freeway I rode through farmland until I connected with US-89, which took me into Browning where I connected up with US-2.

I got fuel in Browning at a station that was just down the road from where I stayed the last time I was in town. Browning is the capital of the Blackfoot Indian Nation. The one thing that really stuck out to me was how many stray dogs there are in town. They're everywhere; all the dogs seem healthy but they run around in packs and seem to spend their time looking for scraps. The dogs are just a peculiar thing about Browning that I'll probably always remember.

As I left the gas station the air was still cool and damp but had warmed a bit, and riding was getting to be more pleasant. I followed US-2 through Browning, then continued to follow the highway west into Glacier National Park.

I highly recommend this route which takes you through some really beautiful country. The mountains rise up and soon you find yourself riding winding roads through narrow tree filled valleys. The traffic is light and there are lots of places to stop for food and fuel if you need it.

After riding through Glacier NP my route took me out into a congested wide valley that spans the space between the Flathead National Forest and the Kootenai National Forest. It soon was warm enough that when I stopped for fuel in Kalispell MT, I shrugged off my jacket and rode the rest of the day wearing my t-shirt and leather vest.

There is a strange thing that happens to me on almost every long trip I take on my motorcycle. I like to call it the Riding Relaxation Response. This occurs when I have been on the road for a few days and usually when I am riding through a scenic area. I feel a wave of relaxation wash over me; my breathing slows and everything that is concerning me at home just slides away. It's a wonderful feeling, and one of the main reasons I take rides like this.

Proceeding west from Kalispell, US-2 took me higher into the mountains and through the amazing country of western Montana and then into the Idaho Panhandle. Riding west on US-2, right before Moyie Springs ID, there is an interesting turnout on the left side of the road. At the top of the turnout there is information about and a view of the Moyie River Bridge. This bridge is 424 feet high and is the second highest bridge in Idaho.

Shortly after crossing the Moyie River Bridge I turned left when US-95 merged with US-2, and headed south toward Bonners Ferry ID. After crossing the bridge over the Kootenai River, I got caught in a bit of traffic. Bonners Ferry though is one of those places I come across when traveling that I think my wife would enjoy. There are a lot of shops and restaurants down by the river, just the sort of place my wife likes. There are also a lot of people milling about and traffic congestion, which is really not something I like very much, so I kept going and put the town in my rear view mirror.

South of Bonners Ferry I ran into a lot of road construction. I actually got stuck and had to wait a half hour for the southbound traffic to proceed through a one lane section of the construction. I never really enjoy occasions such as this, but I was so relaxed by this time that I just shut down my bike and walked around looking at the scenery and talking with others who were stuck waiting along with me.

Traffic eventually did clear, and when it did I continued my route south, now following US-95. Eventually I came to Interstate 90, and from there I rode into the Spokane Valley, where I found a Super-8 motel. This Super-8 was especially nice because directly across the parking lot there was a Denny's Restaurant. Arrangements like this are as convenient as one stop shopping.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014: Aberdeen WA (421 miles)

It had rained the night before, and thunderstorms lingered in the area. I ate my free Super-8 breakfast and watched the television trying to get an idea what the day ahead had in store for me. Fortunately it appeared the storms were moving east, with the weather clearing from the west. Weather concerns kept me at the motel an extra hour for one severe storm to pass before heading out.

I rode through Spokane on Interstate 90, and then took the US-2 West exit, leaving the traffic and the city behind me. The landscape for a long way across Washington State consists of farmland, and the highway is flat, straight, and unremarkable. Beyond the farmland the way is desolate, and I caution anyone riding through the area to plan your fuel stops carefully.

My 2014 Indian Chief Vintage has a comfortable range of 180 miles, but I can go further than that if I watch how engaged my throttle hand becomes. I picked up fuel in Davenport, and again in Wenatchee, and never worried about it much.

At some point in history both Washington and Oregon must have been an actual Hell on Earth. Lava fields seem to cover most of the state. The landscape is rugged and covered with sparse vegetation. It's an unforgiving place with little traffic and limited cell phone coverage, and so it's not a place to get stranded. It seems that beauty comes in many shades and forms, and this area of the country holds a sort of harsh allure.

On the eastern edge of the Cascade Mountain Range is the town of Leavenworth WA. The city is done up in a Swiss-Bavarian style and is pretty much packed with tourists. As I rode along the main street lined with Swiss-Tudor style stores I thought that this would be another place my wife would love to visit. I passed through without stopping though, and thought it was good she was not with me because she would probably not leave the town before spending several hundred dollars on what I consider to be useless trinkets.

Beyond Leavenworth the road gets interesting. For part of the way the highway follows the Wenatchee River, and then branches away into the mountains. The road has enough turns to be interesting, but not so many that would require a tremendous amount of attention. In short, the ride from Leavenworth out to the Seattle area is one where you can enjoy both the ride and the scenery as well.

The highest point in the ride through the Cascade Range is Stevens Pass, but at only a bit over 4,000 feet high, I still consider it a low elevation. US-2 through the Cascades remains a very nice ride, and if you happen to be in the area I recommend it highly.

All too soon I found myself riding through hectic traffic, first on Interstate-405 and then on Interstate-5. I got off the freeway in Lynwood WA and rambled around the town a bit, eventually finding the Lynwood Indian Dealer. I bought a dealer shirt there and the young girl that helped me find what I wanted was very nice and interested in doing a good job representing Indian. I can't say the same of the sales guys that were there; they mostly seemed disconnected and disinterested.

After leaving the Indian dealer I gassed up and returned to Interstate 5 heading south. Being in a big city in the late afternoon, I of course got stuck in the heavy commute traffic. I did see the Space Needle from the freeway, but could not take a picture because there was nowhere to pull off the road.

The Space Needle is a remnant of the 1960 World's Fair. I remember my Grand Parents had driven up to see the fair, and on their way back to their home in San Diego they stopped by our house and gave me a souvenir shirt they had bought for me. I remember thinking that the shirt was pretty darned cool.

The congested traffic continued all the way south on I-5 from Seattle to Tacoma where it finally began to break up. It was a warm day, and my bike handled the stop and go traffic without any problems at all. Sure the engine got warm, but it's a large displacement air cooled engine, so dissipating heat through the air is what it's supposed to do.

After Tacoma I turned off on US-101, and then took SR-8 toward Aberdeen WA. The easy ride through the Olympic Mountains out to the Washington coast was especially nice.

Once in Aberdeen I crossed the bridge and headed further west into the old town where I found the Olympic Inn Motel, and booked a room for the night. For $35 for the night, I got a huge comfortable and quiet room, and free internet. Dinner that night was at McDonnalds.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014: Gold Beach OR (385 miles)

Fog and damp conditions are normal along the coast, and this morning would be no different. I packed up early, got gas in Aberdeen and was soon on my way. The sky above was a hard gray, and mist was blowing in from the ocean as I rode out of Aberdeen and headed south on US-101.

Like the Outer Banks in North Carolina, and Key West in Florida, I think riding the Pacific Coast Highway (US-101) is a ride every serious motorcycle rider should experience at least once. Riding conditions can vary quite a lot throughout the day, and so planning and packing for a ride down the coast can present a challenge. Just 25 miles inland there could be blue skies and temperatures into the upper 80s, and yet on the coast temperatures could be in the low 50's with light rain or fog. At a minimum leathers and an extra sweater should be brought along, and depending on the time of year, packing rain gear would not be a bad idea.

My way down the Washington coast was overcast and cool, but generally not bad at all. To the south I could at times see patches of blue sky, and so there was some hope the day would warm and be sunny. The road along the Washington coast is mostly made up of low grass covered hills with patches of trees springing up where streams rush out of the Coastal Mountains and empty into the sea. At the Oregon border I crossed the Astoria-Megler Bridge, which is the most northern of all the beautiful bridges along the Oregon coast, and is the longest continuous truss bridge in North America.

Continuing south into Oregon on US-101 I stopped in Seaside for gas and my first cup of coffee. The day was still looking bleak, but I continued to hope conditions would improve. These hopes were realized as I followed the highway as it ran right next to the beach all along the coast. I rode while thinking of other trips taken that followed this same route. I specifically recalled a trip taken with four good friends during the summer of 1975, and tried to spot places where we had camped along our way so long ago.

The day had warmed nicely when I at last found my way to Yachats OR., and LeRoy's Blue Whale restaurant. Once inside I ordered a piece of Blueberry Pie (with ice cream) and a cup of coffee, and with that order, the purpose of this adventure was realized. The pie was worth every mile ridden.

The southern Oregon coastline is spectacular beyond words. The ocean mercilessly pounds at rocks and small islands the size of city blocks that wade in the ocean right off the coast. There is an ocean current that descends from the Gulf of Alaska and hugs the coastline all the way south to beyond San Francisco CA. Because of this current the water temperature along the coast is in the mid 40's for most of the year, and so the beaches along the Pacific coast are wild and strikingly beautiful, but only rarely will you see someone out swimming in the surf.

I picked up fuel in Coos Bay and then continued south, riding slowly and just enjoying the bright sunshine, the feel of the wind, and the view. The day however was getting late enough that I thought it would be a good idea to find lodging for the night. So when I spotted a Motel-6 while riding across the magnificent Art-Deco styled Patterson Bridge into Gold Beach OR., I immediately pulled in. The rates were good, the room was nice, and there was a laundry I could use to restock my depleted supply of clean clothes.

I ate dinner that night at the Port Hole Café, which I recommend if you are in the area. After eating I hung out around on the docks and enjoyed the view of the sunset. I also met up with an elderly couple on their Harley. We had a pleasant conversation about our bikes and our experiences riding the coast highway.

That night I did my laundry and thought about where I should go next. Since I was in the area, I decided to ride town to the San Francisco Bay Area and visit my daughter and grandchildren. I gave her a call that evening and we made plans for her family and I to get together for dinner on Friday night. I also called ahead and made reservations at a Motel-6 near to my Daughter's home.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014; Livermore CA (483 miles)

It was a bright and sunny day when I headed south on US-101 out of Gold Beach OR. The air was cold as it usually is on the coast in the morning, but I was riding in comfort wearing my leather jacket and gauntlet gloves. Before leaving I had gulped down two cups of Motel-6 coffee, and so once fortified and leathered up, I was ready to go.

The route south from Gold Beach takes you right along the coast. At times the road is so close to the beach that it feels like you can lean over and spit into the ocean. It's an easy and very scenic ride.

Just south of the town of Kalamath OR is the Kalamath River Bridge. At opposite ends of the bridge there are statures of a golden bear, and if you can stop your bike there it will make for a good picture. Unfortunately on the day I rode across the bridge there was construction with one lane closed on the bridge, so there was no opportunity to stop.

Once south or Eureka CA, the highway turns inland and enters the Redwood Tree forest that covers the Coastal Mountain Range. There US-101 opens up, becoming a true highway with two lanes in each direction. The riding there is easy and the views are spectacular.

If anyone ever finds themselves following the route I am describing here, be sure to get off the freeway and ride the Avenue of the Giants. Signs for this route are clearly indicated on the highway so it's easy to find. The Avenue of the Giants roughly parallels the highway, but takes you through an old growth Redwood forest. There you will ride by trees that are thousands of years old, many with trunk diameters in excess of 20 feet. The forest creates a cool and serene environment that is intoxicating to ride through. If you have the time, stop in the town of Redcrest for a cup of coffee and sit out for a while amongst the trees, it will be an experience you will remember.

Back on US-101, I turned off the highway at Leggett CA onto CA-1, which is the true Pacific Coast Highway. The road out to the coast is pretty challenging, but not overly dangerous or extreme. It makes for an interesting and fun ride.

Once out on the coast I fueled up in Fort Bragg then continued south on the PCH. The riding was slow, not due to traffic but because of the nature of the road. Eventually I decided I had best get back inland if I hoped to reach my motel before it got dark. I turned at CA-128 and followed the Navarro River through the woods out to Cloverdale, where I picked up US-101 again.

In Petaluma I took the CA-116 cutoff to CA-37. This route took me across the top of San Francisco Bay into the city of Vallejo. I prefer this route because it avoids going through San Francisco and all the inevitable traffic that goes with it.

One thing of note is that in California, lane splitting or sharing is completely legal. Motorcycles are allowed to split lanes of slow or stopped traffic as long as it is done safely. It can be dangerous, but so is riding a motorcycle. Drivers in that state are generally aware of the law and will ease over and let you through, however it's important to remain alert as always. Drivers may not see you and could merge over or change lanes just as you pass them, and also it's a smart idea to watch out for large side mirrors on trucks and RV's. Beyond those precautions, if you're smart and careful you'll do fine.

After getting fuel in Vallejo I connected with I-680 and headed south. Traffic and aggressive drivers in California is always a challenge, but as always though if you are alert and anticipate stupidity you will do fine.

It was dark when I reached the motel where I would spend the night. The Motel-6 was nice, but as always a bit sparse on the amenities. WiFi is available and free if you are an old fart with an AARP card, and the television channels available don't usually have anything interesting to offer. My room was comfortable and my bike was safe in the parking lot, and those are the two requirements I insist on so all was fine in my world.

I walked across the street and bought a small pie at a parlor called "Z Pizza" which was surprisingly good. I had a good night's sleep after a good day in the saddle.

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Friday, August 22, 2014: Around the bay area

It was cold and damp the next morning, and the morning dew covered everything. This is common in the SF Bay Area, fog from the ocean and bay rolls over the hills and floods the valleys. When the fog roll in, it can look like a gigantic tidal wave that has somehow frozen in time. This fog is the air conditioner of the bay area. In the mornings everything feels damp and cold, but in the inland valleys the fog quickly burns off, and so by the late morning the day warms up nicely.

Other than dinner with my Daughter's family, I had no plans for the day, and so I decided to just spend the day riding around and visiting old haunts. First up for me was a trip down to Hollister to visit the new Indian dealer there.

I arrived at the dealer at about 11am. As I parked my bike I saw a new Indian owner with one of the sales personnel going over all the features of the new Chieftain. I watched the exchange for a bit, and I have to say that I've not seen a more thorough introduction of a new bike to a customer. The sales guy went through everything including all the features of the display, to how to check the oil, and how to add air to the rear shock absorber.

Inside the dealer I saw quite a few Gilroy Indian artifacts. There were custom painted Gilroy fuel tanks on display, a Gilroy Roadmaster on the show room floor, and another Gilroy Powerplus Chief being worked on in the back. Everyone I met there was knowledgeable and courteous, and so I have nothing but good things to say about the Hollister Indian dealership.

After Hollister I rode out to my old home town of La Honda, and stopped in at the Apple Jacks Saloon. I try to stop in at Apple Jacks whenever I'm in the area and have the time. I like to get a coke then sit out on the porch, and chat with the locals.

Apple Jacks itself started out as the town blacksmith shop in 1879, and is the last standing building of "old La Honda" that I recall from my childhood. Directly across the street in front of the Saloon there once stood a gas station that in the late 1800's had been the town livery stable. Diagonally across the intersection from Applejacks once stood the somewhat famous "Bandit Built Store", which according to town legend had been constructed by members of the "James Gang". To the side, across Entrada Way which leads up the hill into the Cuesta neighborhood, there once stood a grand hotel. This hotel burned down when I was a young child.

So Apple Jacks is all that's left of the old town, and whenever I am in the area I stop by as a sort of homage. As it is with most small towns the locals, such as I, know all the history; we know where all the foundations and bodies are buried.

I talked for quite a while with a couple of local bikers while sitting on the porch of Apple Jacks that day. Soon though the road called out me and it was time to move on. I rode west from La Honda to San Gregorio where I stopped at the general store to pick up a gift for my wife.

The store houses a wide variety of eclectic items from bowler hats to cowboy boots, and from Art Deco lamps to t-shirts. I found some Egyptian styled book ends that I thought my wife would like and chatted with the cashier when I purchased them.

She complained about how local regulations that her water well be at least 50 feet deep had resulted in her only having non potable salt water available, and how she was going to have to pay to drill another well, running 50 feet diagonally in order to tap into the fresh water aquifer. She also told me that the draught this summer had been so severe that the area outside of La Honda where I grew up had absolutely no water; their wells had dried up.

After leaving San Gregorio I took the Pacific Coast Highway north toward Half Moon Bay. Growing up in the area as I did, I'm well acquainted with this section of the PCH. As a teenager I worked at the Boots and Saddle Restaurant, which burned down many years ago. After work my friends and I would often ride our bikes out to the coast and either head south to Pescadero Beach where we would camp out for the night, or we would turn north and grab a burger at the Sno-white restaurant in Half Moon Bay. The Sno-white is long gone now, the building now houses some sort of taco restaurant.

At Half Moon Bay I turned inland on CA-92 which took me over the Coastal Mountains and into the cities that ring San Francisco Bay. I continued on CA-92 passing the College of San Mateo, where I went to school, then over the San Mateo Bridge and eventually arriving at my Daughter's house in Dublin.

We ate at Chevy's in San Ramon that night, then went back to my Daughter's home for dessert. My daughter loves to bake and frequently creates amazing desserts. After eating we sat around and talked while their children played. It was a good evening.

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Saturday, August 23, 2014: Toole UT (740 miles)

For no reason that I can fathom, I had a feeling that I needed to head home. All routes take roughly the same amount of time, but I had not traveled the interstate in quite a few years, so that was the route I selected for my return home.

The morning was cold and wet as usual, but after two quick cups of Motel-6 coffee I was ready and on my way. I traveled via Interstates 580, to I-5 north, then east on I-80. The route through the Sierra Nevada Mountains is very scenic, and can be ridden many times without the ride becoming routine or dull.

Once over the mountains and into Nevada the day warmed significantly. It's a long dull ride through Nevada no matter which route you take. There's just a whole lot of nothing out there, and the only way to get through it is to just buckle down and ride.

I reached Wendover toward the end of the day but decided to press on and get across the Great Salt Lake before finding a place to pull in for the night.

As dull as riding across Nevada is, crossing the Great Salt Lake is worse, much worse. There are not even the low scrubby hills of Nevada to look at. All that can be seen when crossing the lake is the great expanse of white, and an unbending road stretching to the horizon.

After what seemed an endless, mind numbing ride I finally turned off the highway at the truck stop near Tooele UT. Throughout the years I've stayed at the Oquirrh Motel many times and thought I would do so again on this trip. Unfortunately some sort of off road race was running in the area and the motel was full. I ended up staying at the Comfort Inn that was nearby, and of course my room for the night ran almost four times the amount that I would have paid at the Oquirrh Motel. My room was nice, but definitely not worth the hefty price

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Sunday, August 24, 2014: Home (600 miles)

The rest of my trip was pretty unremarkable. I continued following Interstate-80 through Utah and across Wyoming, stopping for gas here and there along the way.

A pretty good cross wind kicked up along the way; wind warnings were posted warning big rigs and motorcycles of the hazard. However I've become accustomed to riding in windy conditions since moving to Colorado, and I've also crossed Wyoming more times than I can count, so the wind didn't bother me at all. I did see some motorcyclists struggling with the wind, and I kept with them for a while intending that I would stop and help them if needed. It seemed though that they were coping with the wind fairly well, and so I picked up speed and left them behind me.

At Laramie WY I turned off the Interstate to pick up US-287. This route took me through some low scenic hills and into Fort Collins CO, and is a short cut to take when connecting from I-80 east to I-25 south. From there it was just a quick jaunt south and I was back home.

It had been a very enjoyable trip. I had met quite a lot of very interesting people, saw incredible scenery, visited my Daughter, and enjoyed a slice of very tasty blue berry pie.

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 + Open : 2015 - SoCal

California 2015

"One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity."
      - Albert Schweitzer

Monument CO to Albuquerque NM, 374 miles

I struggled out of a disturbing dream to the sound of my wife's voice saying, "It snowed last night." These are definitely not the words you want to hear on the morning you are set to start out on a long motorcycle trip.

Staggering out of bed and stumbling toward the window I said something like, "Are you kidding me?" I'm not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, and so I struggled to make sense of what I was seeing through the glass. I could see that the prairie behind our house was definitely covered in white, but as my vision cleared a bit I noticed that what I saw appeared to be frost rather than snow. I made this observation to my wife and said that hopefully the frost would melt off before we finished our morning coffee.

What lingered in my mind were the reminiscences of my disturbing dream of the night before. By nature I'm a superstitious sort of person, and so I pay attention to dreams that seem to be prophetic. In the dream I had been riding my motorcycle out of state and had been stopped by the police. I was then asked for my vehicle registration and insurance information, but when I had opened my wallet the documents were not there.

As I got dressed that morning I checked my wallet for my vehicle papers, and in fact the documents were missing. My dream had obviously been an omen. I had recently purchased a new wallet, and it seemed that somehow the documents had not made it from my old wallet into my new one. It took some scrambling around, but I eventually did find the missing documents and transferred them into my new wallet.

With my sense of panic diminished a bit, and my part in caring for our animals taken care of, I was able to relax and enjoy the company of my wife as we watched the frost melt off the prairie. This first day of travel would be only 374 miles, much less distance than what I normally go, and so I allowed myself the luxury of taking my time over coffee and making final preparations for my trip.

By the time I finally got on the road the frost had melted and the day had warmed a bit. I rode my 2014 Indian Chief Vintage out of our development and hit the freeway heading south. As I passed through Colorado Springs I had a perfect view of Pikes Peak (America's Mountain), and saw that the high winds at 14,000 feet were blowing snow off the top of the mountain forming a long swirling cloud. It was a beautiful sight, and once again I was happy to live in Colorado.

The sun shone out of a clear blue sky and the day was gradually warming. Traffic was light and so the 110 mile ride to Walsenburg CO was uneventful. To my left were the rolling grass covered hills of the prairie and to my right were the towering peaks of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains; it seemed that this adventure was off to a good start.

I purchased gas in Walsenburg then headed west on US-160 in the direction of Alamosa. After passing by the Spanish Peaks, I rode over the La Veta pass where the temperature dropped sharply. I had geared up with consideration of this part of the ride, and although it got cold enough that I started to shiver, I was generally alright.

Once reaching Fort Garland CO I turned left onto CO-159 and rode through the San Luis Valley paralleling the southern branch of the Sangre De Christo Mountain Range on my left. The road itself was straight and uninteresting, but the views of the mountains were spectacular.

For some time I had noticed a clunking noise coming from somewhere near the front of my bike, but when looking over the bike I could not find the source of the sound. The clunking was only occasional, and the lack of consistency made it difficult to find the source of the sound. I heard the rattle again as I crossed the New Mexico border, but again I could not determine the source.

I fueled up in Taos NM then continued south to Santa Fe, then connected with Interstate-25 and rode south to Albuquerque. This is the place where Bugs Bunny always used to make a wrong turn, so I paid close attention when getting off the freeway at the right place to find the Albuquerque Indian dealership.

Of all the dealerships I've visited, I would place the Albuquerque dealer second only to Mark Moses's Flag Ship dealership in Charlotte NC. They ONLY sell Indians there, so a visitor doesn't have to wade through a tangle of lesser vehicles to get to the good stuff. The employees were kind, thoughtful, and seemed interested in speaking with an out of state visitor. I enjoyed being there.

I ended the day at a Super 8 motel off of Coors Blvd in Albuquerque. The motel was pretty much what anyone would expect of the Super 8 franchise, my room was clean, comfortable, and quiet. The motel staff even let me park my motorcycle next to the lobby window for added security. My only complaint was that the WIFI signal was weak and I had trouble connecting that evening when I video chatted with my wife.

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Albuquerque NM to Scottsdale AZ, 413 miles

The next morning I enjoyed my complimentary breakfast in the Super 8 lobby, and then pulled out early. I picked up fuel and then got on Interstate-40 and headed west. The freeway west out of Albuquerque is a long and dreary ride. The scenery is dry and desolate and there's very little to appreciate along the way.

Just east of Grants NM there was one interesting site where the freeway crosses the north end of the El Malpais Lava Fields. It looks as if lava just rolled out across the plain from some unknown source; I saw no sign of what might have been a volcano in the area. In general this landscape reminded me of the "Craters of the Moon" National Monument in Idaho which I visited many years ago.

I continued to follow the freeway until I turned off at AZ-377 and headed southwest toward Heber AZ. Heber is in the highlands that wrap around Phoenix from the east to the north. The Pine tree covered elevation in this area reaches 7,700 feet near the town of Forest Lakes, and provides spectacular views before descending to the town of Payson and eventually into Scottsdale and Phoenix. It's a spectacular and beautiful ride.

The temperature climbed to nearly unbearable levels by the time I reached Scottsdale, where the roadsides through town were decorated with Saguaro Cactus. "Cartoon Cactus" I call these plants because they always seemed to be around where the Road Runner and Coyote were battling it out. Needing a break from the heat I stopped at an Albertson's Grocery store to pick up a Gatorade, and noticed that they had tent like structures throughout the parking lot to protect the cars from the sun.

Once in Scottsdale I found the Indian dealer and stopped in. I must admit that one carry-over I have from my Harley-Davidsons riding days is that I enjoy collecting dealer shirts. I now visit Indian dealers whenever I travel by motorcycle and try to purchase a dealer shirt as a souvenir. I did this at the Albuquerque dealer the day before, and also purchased a shirt in Scottsdale.

The Scottsdale dealer also sells Victory Motorcycles and Slingshots, which I find a bit annoying. But at least they don't also sell ATV's and other make motorcycles, so I suppose the situation could be worse.

After picking up my shirt I made my way to a Motel 6 in Scottsdale. I was surprised at how crowded the Motel 6 was; fortunately I had reserved my room beforehand otherwise I might have had trouble finding a place to stay. As it turns out "Arizona Bike Week" was kicking off, and so the entire city was plagued with posers pulling their bikes out of trailers and riding around town dressed up as pirates.

I found dinner that night at the food court in a shopping mall that was next to my motel. It was a good cheap meal that filled me up, and that was all I was looking for.

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Scottsdale AZ to Blythe CA, 185 miles

I opted to pay a visit to Thunder Manufacturing while I was in the Phoenix area, and so I lingered at my motel until I knew they were open for business before heading out. Thunder Manufacturing makes what is in my opinion the best performance air cleaner for the new Indian motorcycles. Their product fits more securely to the bike than even Indian's own product does. It also provides more air flow and is less expensive than most if not all the alternatives available.

Initially when I had my V&H mufflers and Thunder Mfg. air cleaner installed I had been extremely unimpressed with the dyno-tune results. When I spoke with others about this issue on the Indian Motorcycle Community Forum I learned that Thunder Manufacturing would send me a fuel map for my Power Commander V for free. I asked and they did just that, and after loading their map the difference in performance was nothing short of staggering. Since I was in the area I decided to stop in and thank them personally for their excellent product as well as for sending the PCV map to me.

I met Joyce and Dave and enjoyed conversation with them. They're good people, and I thank them and wish them well. Dave even gave me an alternate route west that would allow me to avoid much of Interstate-10.

However before I left Dave warned me not to wander too far off the road. It seems that the early heat this year had prematurely awoken hibernating rattlesnakes, along with scorpions and tarantula spiders. I loathe spiders of all kinds, and the larger they are the more I despise them, and so his warning was enough to keep me firmly in place on the macadam.

The route Dave gave took me north then west along state routes and then US-60 until it connected to the Interstate near Quartzsite AZ. It was a beautiful ride through forests of Saguaro Cactus and interesting "Cowboy" towns.

After this lovely ride I continued on Interstate-10 until I reached the town of Blythe CA, where I found a Motel 6 to spend the night. There was a Denny's nearby which was nice, but unfortunately the neighborhood was loud. There were lots of young people roaring around town in these new-age hotrods, that are actually Japanese cars fitted with mufflers that make them sound either like an angry bee, or a tight assed fart – I can't figure out which comparison is closer to the sound they make; the next time you hear one, you decide.

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Blythe CA to El Cajon CA, 267 unfortunate miles

The intention for the day's ride was to see the Salton Sea, which is a very large lake in the Mojave Desert. Water drains into the lake from the surrounding mountains, and evaporates there, and so the mineral content of the water is high. The water is actually salty, much like the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

Once upon a time there were popular spa / resorts there. Someone even thought it would be a good idea to stock the lake with fish, but the fish all died due to the high mineral content, and eventually the lakeside spas went out of business. People then moved away and now the lake is only ringed by sparsely populated ghost towns. I was born and raised in California and had never seen the Salton Sea, so that seemed a good enough excuse to ride by and give it a look.

I left Blythe at about 8 am, giving myself enough time to linger by the lake if it seemed inviting. As it turned out I would not have the opportunity to see much of the lake at all.

While riding Interstate-10, just about 20 miles east of the town of Coachella CA, the electrical control system on my bike suddenly shut down. One minute I was lazily riding along without a care in the world, and the next my cruise control unexpectedly turned off. My engine light came on, the gear indicator on indicated only double dashes, and the speedometer function switch ceased to work. My engine continued to run fine however; fortunately this control failure did not extend to the TBW (Throttle By Wire) system, otherwise I would have been hosed.

I got off the interstate as soon as I saw a gas station and pulled into the parking lot. When I tried to shut down the bike I found that neither the power switch nor the starter button worked. I panicked for a moment, thinking that maybe I would have to wait until the fuel ran out before the bike would shut down. Once sense returned to me I hit the kill switch on the handlebar and silenced the engine.

Once I got off the bike to have a look to see what went wrong, I noticed that the headlamp and tail lights were still on, and there was no apparent way to shut them off. I then tried to restart my bike, but found that while turning the kill switch on cycled the fuel pump, the starter would not engage.

I then pushed my bike to an out of the way corner of the parking lot and called my Insurance Company for a tow. More bad news came of that phone call. As it turns out with Farmers Insurance "Road Side Assistance" and towing is only covered in the case of an accident, not a simple break down. So the tow to El Cajon, where the closest Indian dealer was located, would run me $476.

I didn't have much choice other than to agree to this charge, and so I was told that the tow truck would be to my location within an hour to pick up my bike. So I waited, and waited, and waited some more. Finally I called my Insurance Company again and with some back and forth phone calls I was told that the towing company wouldn't be there until late that evening. Eventually I convinced my Insurance Company to find me another towing company, which they did but I had to wait yet another hour for them to show up.

The tow truck eventually did arrive and my bike was loaded onto the back of their flatbed truck. English was a distant second language with these guys, but I didn't much care because by then I was in no mood for conversation.

I called the El Cajon Indian dealer while on the road and told them what the problem was with my bike and about when I would arrive. They were very sympathetic and said they would wait for my arrival because it would be unsafe to leave my bike outside for the night.

As I rode up front in the passenger seat the tow truck ride took me along the western shore of the Salton Sea. It was quite an unusual sight, and I wish things had turned out differently because I would have liked to stop and have a look around. I took a few pictures from the cab of the tow truck as we passed by.

After riding for a while, the tow truck driver and his helper exchanged some rapid fire Spanish and soon thereafter we turned off onto a dusty two lane road. At places along the lonely road the wind had kicked up sand forming small wind swept dunes that stretched across the tarmac. As I looked out through the passenger side window it occurred to me that this would be a good place to bury a body. No one would ever find me out here. I looked at the men in the truck with me, and hoped for the best.

We eventually passed through a small town then into the mountains and up a very steep and winding road. The temperature eased and the country side started to turn green; the landscape soon became enjoyable to look at, and my previous suspicions and tension eased. At the town of Ramona we turned onto CA-67 and eventually made our way out to the town of Lakeside and eventually arrived in El Cajon.

The Parts and Service Manager (Matt) and the Mechanic (also Matt) were waiting for me when I arrived. They got my bike inside and locked up safely, wrote my ticket up and said they would start on my bike the first thing the next morning. The worst case scenario was that my VCM (Vehicle Control Module) had blown up and that they would have to order a new one; in this case the earliest the new part would arrive would be Tuesday of the following week.

Service Manager-Matt drove me to my motel, which I had thankfully booked the night before. Matt drove an early 1950's step-side Ford truck that he had rebuilt into an old school hot rod with a 302 V8 engine; it was quite impressive.

When he dropped me off I pulled my luggage out of his truck bed and left it outside the motel lobby door. When Matt saw me do this he ran up and admonished me saying, "Don't leave anything unattended here. Don't leave anything out where you can't see it even for a minute, because someone will steal it." I quickly moved my bags inside the lobby. Before leaving Matt told me of local restaurants I might like, and even where I could find some entertainment.

My motel room was large, nice, and quiet because it was on the 3rd floor. However due to the room location the WIFI was impossible to use. So I had to go to the lobby in order to email my wife to let her know what had happened.

The next morning I received a call from Mechanic-Matt and was told that the software on my motorcycle was extremely out of date. In fact he said that it appeared to him that the software had never been updated. Once he had updated it, he said the bike started and ran fine.

Mechanic-Matt told me that I needed a new battery since mine was shot from discharging, and that was the only cost for the repair of my bike. He ran more tests to see if he could figure out what went wrong, but nothing showed up, and so I got my bike back in the mid-afternoon.

This was the day I had planned to meet up with "Hasbin", "Last Resort", and a few others from the Iron Indian Riders, but my break down had derailed those plans. Our idea was to meet up for a ride and then have lunch together. My plan was to finish the day in San Luis Obispo, but because everything fell through I would be spending a second night in El Cajon. Due to these changes I would have to ride all the way north to the San Francisco bay-area the next day to get back on schedule.

The downtown area of El Cajon has quite a few trendy restaurants and bars, but also there is a strong Hispanic and Arabic influence, making English only the third most common language spoken there. At times I must admit that I felt as if I were in a Third World Country while visiting that city.

That night I ate at a Quiznos Restaurant in downtown El Cajon. My meal was fine, but there were a lot of bums on the street asking for handouts, which was irritating. I never give money to people like that, because you really don't know if they are in real need or not, and you also have no idea how the cash you give them will be spent. I tend to give to legitimate charities that help the homeless instead.

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El Cajon CA to Livermore CA, 561 miles

San Diego had been my goal on this trip as I'm riding across the USA from the southwest to the northeast this year. Last year I did the opposite diagonal and rode to Key West FL, then up to Port Angles in Washington State. This year I will hit San Diego CA and then ride up to Bangor ME in September.

It was a bright and clear Sunday morning when I struck out at 6:30 am, first riding first down Interstate-8 into San Diego, then turning north onto Interstate-5. The air was cool but tolerable and traffic was light as I rode the freeway north through San Diego.

Traffic became a bit more hectic as I neared Los Angeles. I rode by Disneyland and thought of bringing my daughters there many years ago. I could see the Matterhorn and Space Mountain from the freeway and was a bit surprised that they were still there. I would think that the younger generations would be unimpressed with such old fashioned rides.

All through Los Angles the freeways meandered, merged, and separated, so I had to pay close attention to keep from getting lost. Fortunately I did not encounter any of the legendary southern California traffic jams.

I picked up fuel in San Juan Capistrano then again in Ventura, where I left Interstate-5 behind and steered north onto US-101. I could have kept to US-101 all the way into the bay-area, but I decided to take the more scenic CA-1, otherwise known as the Pacific Coast Highway instead.

I stopped for gas in San Luis Obispo and got myself a cup of coffee. The rattle that seemed to be coming from the front of the bike had seemed louder that morning, and so I gave the bike a careful examination as I drank my coffee. Looking around at the front of the chrome tank console, I finally discovered the problem; the forward screw that held the console in place was missing.

I didn't have a replacement screw with me, but I knew that I would find a Home Depot store when I passed through the town of Seaside later that day, so I vowed to stop in and get a replacement screw and install it then. With this riddle solved I started up my bike and continued north on the PCH toward Big Sur.

Big Sur is a place I remember well from my youth. My parents ran a less than completely legal business that was popular with Hippies back in the 1960's, and since Hippies frequented Big Sur my parents brought me down there quite often. Big Sur is a beautiful place where Redwood Tree covered mountains meet the Pacific Ocean. There really is no beach to speak of there, but the sweeping views from the mountains of the ocean crashing against the rocks along the coast are beautiful to behold.

A place along the Big Sur coast I highly recommend is "Nepenthe", which consists of a restaurant at the end of a small peninsula with amazing views, and a store that features products made by local artists called the "Phoenix".

I stopped at Nepenthe that day, but because it was a weekend the parking lot was jammed and there was an hour wait for a table at the restaurant. I ended up parking my bike and briefly visiting the Phoenix store, but didn't buy anything.

Beyond Nepenthe, I stopped at the Home Depot in Seaside where I purchased the proper metric fastener to keep my tank console from rattling. I installed the fastener in the parking lot, and then got gas at the station next to the Home Depot. The rattle has not returned since making this repair.

After leaving Seaside behind, I took the CA-156 highway east to reconnect with US-101. Traffic became increasingly worse as I neared the SF bay-area. By the time I merged with US-101 traffic was stop and go; actually it was mostly stopped with very little go at all.

California allows motorcycle "lane-sharing"; this is a fact I often forget and am usually startled the first time a motorcycle passes me while I'm stuck in traffic. Not living in California has made me rusty on lane-sharing skills, so while taking advantage of this opportunity, I do so at a slower pace than do the natives.

Traffic was moving at about 10 mph when the first motorcycle passed me; I was startled and jerked my bike to the side when I heard his bike. He was riding a bright orange Road Glide and splitting lanes at a speed of at a break-neck rate. As I watched he had to slam on his breaks a few cars ahead of me when a car inadvertently swerved too close to the edge of the lane for him to pass. He grabbed too much front brake when he did this, and rear tire slid out to the side and he nearly dumped his bike. After this he gunned his engine and shot up the road between the lanes at an even faster pace.

Reckless riding like that is not my style, so I looked carefully behind me then pulled out and started splitting lanes at about 5 to 10 mph faster than the traffic speed. I made good time, but had to pull over every once in a while to let other motorcyclists go by that wanted to go faster than me. I continued to split lanes for over 30 miles as I rode US-101 north toward San Jose.

I soon connected with Interstate-680 then took the CA-84 exit heading east toward Livermore. I arrived at the Livermore Motel 6 a bit before 6 pm. I would stay at this motel for four nights while I visited family and friends in the bay area.

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Visiting Family and Friends

I spent all day Monday with my daughter and her family. We went to the beach together with her husband and their kids. It was a great time, and we even got to see a pack of Sea Lions up close that day.

The next day I went riding with my oldest friend Ben. We rode up into the Santa Cruz Mountains and stopped at Alice's Restaurant in Skylonda for lunch. I had dinner with Ben and his wife that evening.

I ate lunch with Eamon (another old and wonderful friend) on Wednesday. Eamon still works at Cisco Systems, but he was able to get out for a long 3 hour lunch. He invited me back into the building where we used to work together after lunch. It was fun seeing some of the people I used to work with. It's a bit strange going back to an old work place like that; the place made me think of Dilbert cartoons. I find that I mill my work-place friends, but definitely not the work itself.

The San Francisco bay-area enjoys probably the best weather of anywhere on Earth. The problems with the place are that it's too crowded, too expensive by far, and the pace of life will shorten ones lifespan. I miss my daughter, her family, and my friends, but nothing else.

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Livermore CA to Ridgecrest CA, 399 miles

I left Livermore and the bay-area behind and started for home on April 2nd by retracing my route following CA-84, Interstate-680, and US-101 south. The morning was clear and a bit too cool, but as I headed out I knew the day would warm and it would be a good day to ride.

Traffic on that portion of US-101 is generally light as the road meanders between small agricultural towns and through the rolling hills and valleys of the southern Coastal Range. Originally, before the road became part of the US highway system, it was the El Camino Real, the route Gaspar De Portola followed on his inland expedition north toward what would become San Francisco. Mission bells are hung beside the road every mile or so to mark the path he followed while establishing a chain of Christian Missions in California.

I fueled up in King City and again in McFarland, then headed inland on CA-46 and rode into Bakersfield. Like Fresno, Bakersfield should not be on anyone's "must visit" list, both cities are flat and dull agricultural cities, and the only good reason to stop there might be for gas.

Leaving Bakersfield behind I continued east along CA-178 riding through the Kern River Canyon toward Lake Isabella. Like most riverside rides, heading through Kern Canyon was a pleasant ride. I arrived at the Ridgecrest CA Motel 6 at about 5 pm.

That evening I ate at local diner called "Kristy's", which was recommended by the motel desk clerk. My food was simple and good, and the apple pie desert was the perfect ending for the day.

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Ridgecrest CA to Kingman AZ, 349 miles

I was looking forward to a ride through Death Valley as I packed up my motorcycle and headed out for the day. I have visited Death Valley before, but only in the spring and fall. With a summertime temperature that range from 120 to 130 degrees, early spring or late fall are really the only good times to ride through Death Valley on a motorcycle. Anytime other than that is, in my opinion pure insanity.

I left Ridgecrest and took the Trona Road through the bleak and dusty valleys that run parallel to Death Valley. Although it was not so many miles, it was a lonely ride. This is an area of the country where you definitely do not want to have your bike break down.

At about half way through the utterly desolate Panamint Valley I came to one of the most dreaded signs a cruiser motorcycle rider can encounter. The sign read, "PAVEMENT ENDS – LOOSE GRAVEL". Neither my Vintage nor I am a fan of either condition. As I came to the edge of the pavement with no other alternative but to proceed, I paused for a moment to reflect and prepare myself.

It seems that life throws shit at us all the time, and on most occasions we have no alternative but to just go forward and get through it. Sometimes life just sucks, and in those times when you get served a shit sandwich all you can do is to take a bite knowing that you'll wash your mouth out later.

I rode forward off the pavement and quickly discovered that "LOOSE GRAVEL" was an understatement. Small piles of smooth rounded gravel were scattered along the road, and when my bike would run over them it would slide to one side or the other. Putting your feet down in this situation is not a good idea because your feet will slide just as easily as your tires do. Whenever my bike started to slide there was a moment where it felt as if the bike was going to just continue slipping and fall over. I rode slowly and carefully, and thankfully after about 3 miles the pavement was restored and I breathed a sigh of relief and continued on my way.

I finally came to the junction of Panamint Valley Road and CA-190 and turned right toward Stovepipe Wells and Death Valley. CA-190 first took me several thousand feet up into the mountains and then down, and down, and down to Stovepipe Wells, which is at sea level.

Only regular gas was available at Stovepipe Wells, and because I didn't know the distance to the next gas station I fueled up, even though I had many more miles left in the tank. I've put regular gas into my Indians and Harleys before with no ill effects; it's best to not make a habit of using lower octane fuel but for the short term it causes no harm.

I visited the Stovepipe Wells gift shop and purchased a souvenir t-shirt and hat before leaving. Outside it was in the upper 80's and it felt good to get inside. I bought a coke on the way out of the store and sat outside in the shade drinking it. I also took this opportunity to change out of my cold weather riding gear into something more appropriate to the environment.

From Stovepipe Wells I continued on CA-190 to Furnace Creek, which coincidently is at an elevation of 190 feet below sea level. So now I have ridden my 2014 Vintage from over 12,000 feet above to 190 feet below sea level. That my bike has always run well at these elevations is a testament to the value of closed loop Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI); in past times when both motorcycles and automobiles used carburetors, such a feat would have been difficult.

I fueled up in Pahrump NV and then rode to Las Vegas where I stopped at the Indian dealer. I spoke with the Service Manager there about the problem I had with my bike outside of El Cajon, and listened to his theories about what happened. He believed that the combination of the low battery along with the old software was the cause of my problem.

The Service Manager at the Las Vegas dealer seemed knowledgeable, but the sales staff was pretty clueless. When asked about my bikes I mentioned that I in addition to my Polaris Indian I also had a Kings Mountain ERA Darkhorse. The sales guy said that my Kings Mountain must have come with the S&S engine, which was a stunning show of ignorance for someone who is representing the brand. I corrected him of course, but by saying "you need to learn more about what you're selling", I may not have seemed too polite.

Heading south on US-93 out of Las Vegas I gassed up in Boulder City then rode out to see the Hoover Dam. The water was lower than I had seen it before, but the level didn't seem shocking considering that the snow melt in the Rockies hadn't begun in earnest yet. While there I took some pictures; I had hoped to get picture of my bike with the dam in the background, but the place was crowded with tourists and frankly I was lucky to find a place to park.

I continued south on US-93 and finished my day at a Motel 6 in Kingman AZ. I've stayed at this place before; I like it because it's quiet and there's a Denny's just down the street.

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Kingman AZ to Santa Fe NM, 526 miles

On this second to the last day of my adventure, my goal was to cover as much ground as possible. The mountains were still too cold and covered with snow to consider a scenic alternative, so I hit Interstate-40 early and rode that highway straight through to Santa Fe NM.

I stopped here and there along the way for fuel, and partook in a cup of coffee at the Navajo Travel Center in Arizona; beyond that it was 80 mph on cruise control all the way. I spent the night in a Motel 6 (do you see a pattern here?) in Santa Fe. Dinner was a bowl dinner at a Kentucky Fried Chicken place a couple of blocks from my motel.

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Santa Fe NM to Monument CO, 359 miles

On the final day of my journey I went north, following US-84 to NM-68 following the Rio Grande River into Taos. The town of Taos is pleasant, but the downtown area is a bit to artsy, high-end touristy for my liking.

North of Taos I turned off on NM-522 then followed NM-38 and rode through the beautiful towns of Red River and Eagle. Eventually my route took me to US-64 then on to Interstate-24 near Raton NM. I eventually got fuel in Walsenburg CO, and from there it was a familiar ride home.

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Conclusion

All in all this was a very nice trip. The breakdown of my bike I consider to be a shake down for the long ride to Maine I have planned for early September. The breakdown itself was inconvenient but I'm happy that the problem was taken care of and now I don't have to worry about it.

Things like breakdowns and gravel roads just happen when you travel, and your experience of your trip as a whole is determined by how you handle these situations when they occur. You can protest, get angry, scream and curse, but none of that will do a darned thing toward working through or finding a solution to the problem.

No matter how dire things get, remember that it could be worse. You could otherwise be at work instead, and the worst day on the road is always better than the best day on your job.

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 + Open : 2015 - IRIP

May 2015, IRIP

"Every parting is a form of death, as every reunion is a type of heaven."
      - Tryon Edwards

Weather concerns were an issue throughout the month of May as the winter season seemed unwilling to loosen her grip on us. At my home in Colorado Springs the rain fall totals for that month were the highest ever recorded; rain and sometimes hail occurred daily; the gloom and damp were relentless.

Directly to the east, the states of Kansas and Oklahoma were experiencing floods, thunderstorms, and tornados. With all the bad weather, I was starting to think my ride out to the Indian Rally at Indian Point (IRIP) would have to be cancelled.

Just the thought of not attending this Indian motorcycle rally started by the Iron Indian Riders Association (IIRA) in 2004 filled me with regret. IRIP is a special event, unique among motorcycle rallies because of its low key family friendly atmosphere. No one dresses like pirates and tries to come across as a tough guy, nor do the women wrestle in coleslaw and flash their boobs, instead the atmosphere is more like a meeting of friends; old companions, acquaintances, and soon to be friends we have not met yet.

The event itself is small, with most people staying within a short walk, or at most a short ride to their accommodations. This week-long rally is held in May at Indian Point, in the Ozark Mountains near Branson MO, an area renowned for excellent motorcycle riding.

I was planning on riding my 2014 Indian Chief Vintage to the rally because it is the better bike for longer trips. However my Vintage was still being held hostage by the Service Department at the Littleton CO Indian dealer, and it didn't seem that its release would be coming soon. As the days grew few before I was to leave for IRIP, I heard nothing from the dealer and had very little idea what was going on.

My bike was brought in for service in early April over an issue with a high idle, as well as for the problem with the VCM that left me stranded in the California desert back in March. While the bike was in the shop, I also asked that a 30,000 mile service be done.

At the time of my departure for IRIP in late May, the Littleton Indian Service Department had kept my bike for roughly one and a half months, which seemed excessive to me. Fortunately I have another Indian in my garage, a 2010 Indian Chief Darkhorse. This is a real Darkhorse, not one of the new Polaris-Indian impersonations; she's fast, loud, rough around the edges, and has more attitude than most riders can tolerate. She may not be the perfect choice for a long trip, but she's a blast to ride and will certainly get me to anywhere I want to go in style.

As usual I changed the engine oil, checked the other fluid levels and tire pressure, and did a thorough once over of the bike before leaving. Even though this trip would only amount to about 1,700 total miles, I still believe that these checks are mandatory before hitting the road.

A week before I left, the weather seemed to be stabilizing. I continued to check the highway conditions because there had been extensive flooding across both Kansas and Oklahoma. I also contacted several IIRA friends who lived in those states regarding the riding conditions. In the end it appeared that I would be fine and so all was set to go.

I had packed and loaded the bike the night before; and so on the morning of my departure all that was left to do was to enjoy a cup of coffee with my wife. On most days we like to sit out on our back deck and watch the birds and other wildlife scamper through our back yard. That morning the crows and magpies were battling over dried bread and peanuts that we had set out for them to eat. While this battle ensued the chipmunks and squirrels were taking advantage of their distracted competition, and were making off with the best part of their breakfast.

After the morning coffee and show, I pulled the Darkhorse out of the garage and got myself ready while the bike warmed up. Then with a kiss goodbye for my wife, I set out and was on my way.

The morning was bright and clear, and the air was comfortably crisp as I rode south on Interstate-25 toward Pueblo. Once in Pueblo I picked up fuel at a Love's Station at the north end of town, then connected with US-50 and headed east.

The rain that had poured down on us over the past month had turned the prairie greener than I have ever seen it. The normal dreary ride over the flat terrain was a joy with everything looking lush and alive. The rivers had all spilled over their banks and standing water could be seen in the fields on either side as I rode through the country. The roads however were dry and clear; it was an easy ride.

I got gas in Lamar CO, and then continued on US-50 into Kansas. The further east I got the dryer the country side seemed to be. Still though the grass was green, and the air warmed around me as I rode.

I refueled in Dodge City and once again pointed my bike east still following US-50. A cross wind had picked up; this was enough to make my bike wobble from time to time but it never became a problem. Indian Motorcycles are susceptible to high winds due to their skirted fenders that catch the breeze; to a new Indian rider this can be unnerving at first but after a while dealing with wind becomes second nature.

After stopping in Hutchinson KS for gas I continued east on US-50; I soon noticed that the wobble I had been experiencing seemed to be getting worse. I had previously attributed this wobble to the wind, but now the wind did not seem as severe and the wobble was getting worse. As I was trying to sort this issue out in my mind I slowed from about 70mph down to about 40mph, and then suddenly the wobble abruptly became extreme.

My Darkhorse snapped hard to the left then suddenly and uncontrollably to the right. Back and forth this action occurred, becoming more and extreme. I of course backed off the throttle and tried to aim the bike to the shoulder of the road, but it was all I could do, taking every bit of my strength and ability, just to keep both my bike and myself from slamming into the pavement.

I then found myself automatically reaching for, and applying light pressure to the front brake. It was almost an out-of-body experience as I calmly watched my hand reach for the brake. This action righted the bike and I was able to pull off the road and stop.

I shut down the engine, and just sat a moment collecting my thoughts. My breathing was still a bit rapid and I leaned forward on to the gas tank, resting my head against the speedometer and thought "how the heck is it that I'm alive?" I even looked behind to see if perhaps my body was lying back there on the tarmac, tangled in a heap of twisted metal. In what amounted to a flash back of the Twilight Zone, I wondered, "Am I alive?"

As it turned out I wasn't back there lying in a bloody heap, instead I was sitting on my still upright Darkhorse at the edge of the road. I quickly discovered though that I could not get off my motorcycle because the kickstand wouldn't fully deploy with the back tire gone. I took off my helmet and lay it beside the bike, and sat there wondering what to do next.

Before long a young man riding what appeared to be an older Honda 750 pulled off the road behind me and asked if I needed help. I asked him if he was local, and if so did he know the number of a local towing company. He called his father who gave him the number of a towing company which he gave to me. I thanked him, and while I was making my call he rode off.

Thankfully I knew roughly where I was. There have been times when I called for a tow and when asked, I had no idea where I was because I couldn't remember the name of the last town I rode through. I was lucky this time because I knew I was about 10 miles west of the intersection of US-50 and Interstate-135.

The tow truck arrived after about 30 minutes, during which time another motorcyclist riding a Harley Davidson stopped to check on me. When they saw my tire they said that I was lucky to be alive and unhurt. Once the tow truck arrived the driver and I were able to get it up and on the flatbed and secured, and we were soon on our way.

I asked the driver to take me to the Wichita Indian Dealer, but when we got there we found the dealer closed and the parking lot barred off by a high chain link fence. I thought about leaving my bike outside the fence, but the driver advised against it because motorcycle thefts are common in Wichita. Apparently people just pull up in a van, then several of them pick up the bike and toss it into the back of the van, and off they go. While it would take quite a number of people to lift my Darkhorse I didn't want to take the risk, so I had him drive me back to the Super 8 motel I had reserved for the night.

After getting my bike off the tow truck I parked it as best I could. There was a slight downward inclination to the parking lot and I maneuvered my bike such that the kickstand was on that downward side; still though, I felt the bike was too upright for my liking, but there was nothing I could do to remedy the situation.

Once I was checked in to the motel I walked over to the McDonnald's restaurant to get something to eat. Once there several people noticed that I was wearing an Indian Motorcycle T-Shirt (from the Omaha NE dealership that Justin Vandevort once ran) and said they thought my bike parked next door was beautiful. Of course thanked them, and replied that it would look much better once both tires were round again.

As I was finishing my dinner someone came in and told me that my bike had fallen over. I ran over to where it was parked and found my bike upright and surrounded by four men. I was told they saw it tipping over and got there in time to save it from going down. The funny thing they mentioned that they hoped that it was ok that they touched my bike. Of course it was I told them, and thanked them for their intervention profusely.

One of the men worked for a utility company and had an old spool of wire in the back of his truck. He took this spool out and bent the top so it was inclined a bit, then slipped it under my bike, wedging it in place so my bike would not fall again.

There have been times in my life where I felt there was no hope for humanity. If you watch the news regularly you have seen the stories of hatred, malice, and violence just as I have, so you know it's easy to fall into this belief. But just when I feel that the Universe would be better off without us, and that the proof of intelligent alien life is that they have NOT visited us, I suddenly encounter people such as I did in Wichita who were kind enough to help a stranger in need. People like this are the best of us all, and the hope of mankind.

As all of this happened on a Sunday, and as most motorcycle shops are closed on Monday, I had little hope of getting back on the road any time soon. Fortunately I had my laptop computer with me and so I was able to search for dealerships or garages where I might get a new tire installed on my bike. The Wichita Indian was open on Monday, so I called and left a message with the hope that everything would work out.

The next morning I was greeted with unfortunate news; the Wichita dealership was new, and their Service Department was not set up yet. Fortunately I got in touch with Sonny Pelzer, the Service Manager of the Wichita Indian dealer, and he said he could help me. First he located a tire that would fit my bike, and then he arranged for my bike to be picked up and delivered to the Riverside HD Custom shop where my tire would be installed.

From there everything ran like clockwork. A big guy showed up with a trailer and we got my bike loaded and delivered it to Riverside HD Customs. The only small hitch was that the Riverside HD Custom shop is a small garage and so they don't take credit cards. Fortunately there was a ATM at the gas station next door, and so it all worked out.

I like small motorcycle shops like Riverside HD Customs because the work done there isn't like an assembly line as it is in many dealerships. They care about their work and they take the time to do it right. The two guys that worked on my bike were personable and did good work. They also liked my 2010 Darkhorse, and when one of them did his test ride he mentioned that it ran great and was really strong.

After leaving Riverside HD Customs I rode over to the Wichita Indian dealership to thank Sonny personally. They're a new dealership and they sell ONLY Indians, which is a strong plus in my book. The people I met at the dealership were nice, and Sonny is a great guy. So if you're in the Wichita area, be sure to stop in.

That night I had called the Shady Acre Motel in Branson West and had my reservation changed to one less day to make up for the delay in Wichita. Then after staying an extra night in Wichita, I left for Branson the next morning. I went through some rain on the way to Branson, but it was only enough to get me wet and was not a hazard. I also got lost, because I chose to not follow my own written directions, and enjoyed a very scenic ride of the Ozark Mountains.

My motel for the next three nights was the Shady Acre Motel, which is located on MO-76 just north of the turn off for Indian Point. This was one of the nicer places I have stayed, especially considering the low price. My room was large and had a king size bed, a kitchenette (not that I cook), and a private second floor balcony. I highly recommend this place to anyone that might visit the area.

It's the people who attend IRIP that make the rally the fun and family oriented event that it is. There are excellent rides available through the Ozark Mountains; when a group wants to ride, word goes out and whoever wants to go along just joins in. The drinking usually begins after all the kids are down for the night, and the evening usually ends with someone breaking out a guitar and playing while we all sing along. If you want AC/DC or Motley Crue to show up, this isn't the rally for you, but if you want to enjoy good conversation with like-minded people, you'll feel right at home.

On Wednesday evening there was an auction to benefit the local Shriners Children's Hospital. This is obviously a very good charity to give to, and IIRA members are known for their generosity. That evening we raised nearly $12,000, all of which would go to benefit the children.

I left early Thursday morning and headed south into Arkansas where I stopped in Rogers AR at the Heritage Indian Motorcycle dealer. This dealer is run by Justin Vandevort who is a very nice guy that I am privileged to call a friend. Before Justin took over, the building that would house the Indian dealership was just a bare and dilapidated 4 car garage sitting at the edge of the road. Under Justin's stewardship the building and the new shop behind it have become an epitome of what an Indian dealership should be. If you're in the area, drop in and tell Justin that Ken says "hi".

After leaving Heritage Indian Motorcycles I headed out into the vast expanse of Oklahoma following US-412. Eastern Oklahoma, as well as eastern Kansas, has quite a number of toll-roads, so if you're traveling there you should be sure to carry some cash. It's always a hassle to stop to pay tolls when riding a motorcycle, but it is what it is, and you do what you have to do; if anyone gets upset at it taking a long time to get your cash out, pay, then put everything back, well – they can just get over it. It cost me just about $4 to ride the toll roads, it's not a vast expense and the roads are well kept so I don't go out of my way to avoid them.

I spent the night at the Days Inn in Woodward OK; I can't in good conscience recommend this place because even while the room was nice and the staff was friendly, there was a truck stop right next door, and some of the truckers let their big rigs idle all night. That night I ate at a Mexican Restaurant that was next door to the truck stop called Maracas, and the food was pretty good.

The next morning was cool and damp, but comfortable enough to wear just a sweater and my leather vest. Initially the sky was lightly overcast, but that quickly burnt off and the day became bright and beautiful. This part of Oklahoma is made up of lightly rolling hills which are usually very dry, however the recent storms had dumped an unprecedented amount of rain, and so the countryside I rode through was richly green and vibrant.

My first gas stop of the day was in Guymon OK, where I got rid of my sweater and then promptly headed out in the wrong direction. After riding for about 20 miles wondering why that even though I had ridden this road before it didn't look familiar, I entered the small city of Texhoma and saw a sign that I was crossing into Texas, and realized my error. A quick check of a map put me on OK-95 North, and I soon hooked up with US-64 again.

I picked up more fuel at Clayton NM, and then continued to follow US-64 until it intersected Interstate-25 at Raton NM. From there it was an easy ride to Walsenburg CO for a gas stop, then on to Colorado Springs CO and home.

Although this trip was relatively short at only 1,700 miles round trip, it tested my endurance and skill as a rider, as well as my ingenuity and problem solving skills. I will remember this trip for a long time, mostly because of the tire blowout that I somehow survived. I do believe that we all have spirits out there that are looking after us, call them angles or spirit-guides as Medicine Girl does; on this trip those looking out for me were certainly over worked. I acknowledge these spirit-guides and thank them for watching over me.

I will also remember this trip because of the kindness of strangers. These people I didn't know and will likely never see again came into my life at the right moment and helped me when I needed it the most. There are kind and good people in this world, and it's an important lesson to not give up hope.

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 + Open : 2015: 4 Corners

TRAVEL: 4 Corners & Calif.

"What you've done becomes the judge of what you're going to do – especially in other people's minds. When you're traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don't have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road."
      - William Least Heat Moon

Southwest, take 2.

Plans were being kicked around regarding a possible Iron Indian Riders Group rally around the Four Corners region for 2016, and because I live in Colorado I became the point man for the project. In that capacity I had already narrowed the time for the rally down to either June or September because those are historically the drier months for this area, but more research needed to be done.

Durango seemed to be the most likely location for such a meeting because it's more of a tourist destination than are the other towns in the area. Durango has more restaurants and hotels than other locations, and there's a lot to do in the area. So Durango it was, all that needed to happen was to select a hotel that would be friendly to a bunch of rowdy and drunk bikers.

There were a lot of hotels to choose from, but I needed to consider parking issues along with finding a location where we would not bother people and businesses that were close by. Cost was also an issue; I wanted to find a nice place, but wanted to keep the room cost under $100 a night. By studying reviews and locations on the internet I was able to find a likely candidate, the Iron Horse Inn which is about 2 miles outside of downtown Durango on US-550. All that was left to do then was to check it out in person to see if it was as good as it seemed.

KR, another Iron Indian member said he wanted to go with me, and so I started to plan a trip for the two of us. Complicating this was that after Durango I wanted to head west out to California to visit my daughter and her family. KR had no reason to go to California and he had only a few days he could take off from work, so we decided to ride together out to Durango then on to Rachel NV, after which we would part company.

Using Google Maps (as I usually do) I planned a route that followed US-50 over Monarch Pass to Montrose (night 1), then on to Durango over the Million Dollar Highway where we would spend the second night at the Iron Horse Inn. From there we would travel by the Four Corners region and through Utah's Monument Valley on to Kanab Utah where we would spend our third night. Kanab to the Little A'Le'Inn at Rachel Nevada would be the final leg of our travels together.

KR asked me to plan his return trip for him, and with his input I plotted his route back to Denver via the scenic Glenwood Canyon.

The last day of my trip to California I would pass by Mono Lake, then travel on CA-108 over the Sonora Pass (a route I had never traveled before), then on into Livermore CA where I had booked several days at a Motel 6.

Intending to take a leisurely and scenic route home, I planned a route from Livermore through Wells NV, Idaho Springs ID, Cody WY, and then Spearfish SD where I would spend two nights. After riding the Black Hills I would finally head home.

With the route in place I booked all the hotels and set about getting my bike ready for the trip. Some people think that I overdo it with my planning and preparation, and maybe they're right. When I was younger and more willing to take risks I rarely planned much of anything beyond a general direction before heading out. These days I find contentment in knowing that a room and a comfortable bed are waiting for me at the end of a long day in the saddle.

I've also discovered that there is a whole lot of empty places in this country; places where gas stations are very few and very far between, and so I've come to appreciate knowing before I ride out into the great fried empty that I can find fuel and won't end up as coyote food at the side of the road.

So with route planned, the oil changed, tires checked, and bike inspected, I was ready to go. It looked like it would be a nice trip. It turns out that I was only half right about that.

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Sunday, July 12, 2015: 250 miles to Montrose CO.

Plans had changed, and I would be making this ride alone. KR had called me the day before we were set to leave saying that he had a dental emergency; an impacted tooth would have him going to the dentist and the effects of the Novocain would make it unsafe to ride for at least a couple of days. This meant that the motel rooms I had booked for us both would be very large for a single person, but the price was roughly the same so it was not an issue.

As odd as this seems, I was quite comfortable with this development. Unless I'm traveling with wife or one of my very close friends, I'd rather go alone. Traveling can be stressful, especially if things go wrong, so I'd rather be with someone I know that can be trusted in those situations.

As I sat on our balcony having a cup of coffee on the morning of my departure, I was filled with trepidation. This would be my third long distance ride of the year, and on the previous two I had experienced difficulties with my bike.

On my first ride in March my motorcycle VCM blew up, leaving me stranded in the Mojave Desert. This cost me a day's time and several hundred dollars in towing and repair expenses. On my second ride in June the rear tire of my 2010 Dark Horse blew out as I was riding; an event that could have killed or severely injured me. That also cost me a day's time and several hundred dollars in towing and a new tire.

I had the feeling that the Fates were conspiring against me this year, and so the smart thing to do would be to pull back and not travel until whatever dark cloud or bad Karma had moved on to another victim. Still though, the urge to travel is strong in me. I felt restless, like a caged animal pacing back and forth wanting nothing more than to break free and travel far away.

While the urge to travel was strong, I was still feeling cautious and a little worried as I headed out that morning. What would befall me on this trip? Would it be another tire blow out? Or would I have another electrical failure?

I was heading into one of the most remote areas of the country where there were literally hundreds of miles between towns. I would ride along remote empty roads that stretched unbending to the horizon across hostile terrain, over dry lake beds, and through lonely mountains; if my bike were to fail me there it would be very bad. With all this in my heart and mind I said goodbye to my wife and headed out toward whatever awaited me.

From Colorado Springs I rode south on CO-115. This is one of the rides I take in winter, which passes by Cheyanne Mountain (former home of NORAD), and will eventually lead to the town of Florence where I like to stop and get a cup of coffee at a café called "The Pour House". This is one of those small town non-franchise café's where both the food and coffee are good and the business displays works by local artists.

Before reaching Florence I connected with US-50 and headed west. This route first took me through Canon City, then along the banks of the Arkansas River as it exits the Rockies and flows east across the plains. The river along this route is a favorite with local fishermen, so it's common to see them wading out into the river and casting their lines.

I picked up fuel in Salida then rode up to the top of Monarch Pass, where the elevation there is 11,312 feet. As I pulled into the tourist shop at the top of the mountain my bike was idling at about 1200 rpm. A fast idle at high altitude is an issue I've had since I installed a Power Commander 5 on my bike. I parked and shut down my bike and wandered around while taking pictures.

After visiting the tourist shop I got back on my bike and continued west on US-50, which took me down the west side of the mountain. The fast idle produced by the Power Commander 5 makes engine braking unpredictable because backing off on the throttle while going downhill may not slow you down, and in some cases it might actually speed you up. My opinion is that until Dyno-Jet improves their product, the Power Commander 5 should not be used on the new Polaris era Indians.

After descending through the mountains west of Monarch Pass US-50 follows the course of Tomichi Creek all the way to Gunnison, it's an easy and very pleasant ride. Beyond Gunnison the highway passes by the Blue Mesa Reservoir, and once the water exits at the damn it becomes the Gunnison River. The countryside surrounding the reservoir is dry and a little desolate, but the varying scenery makes for an interesting ride.

I pulled into the Black Canyon Motel shortly after 3pm. Because I was there so early I was able to downgrade to a smaller ground floor room where I could park my bike right outside my door. This motel definitely caters to motorcycle riders; by the time evening came at least half the parking lot was taken up by Harleys, Victorys, a few other brand bikes, and of course one Indian.

I had dinner that night at Arby's, which was just a short walk from my Motel.

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Monday, July 13, 2015: 104 miles to Durango CO.

I awoke early for no particular reason; this frequently happens when I travel because I am out of my home element, and am anxious to get back on the road. I think that for some of us there is a primal need to keep moving; like sharks, continued movement for us is necessary for life. We hunger to see and experience what is around the next bend in the road. Stopping and staying put for us then, is like a little death.

Today my travels would take me up and over the Million Dollar Highway. Traveling US-550 I would crest two 10,000+ foot passes and one 11,000 foot pass while riding through some of the most incredible scenery in our country. Roughly halfway along the route is the town of Silverton; a quaint old west mining town that provides a good place to stop for refreshment. I believe the Million Dollar Highway should be on every biker's "Must Ride" list.

I've traveled this road before, but frankly I barely remember it. The last time was back in 1995 when I rode from Grand Junction to Durango. On that trip the road itself didn't leave much of an impression; what I recall the most was stopping in Silverton for lunch.

This is not a road to be trifled with though. The turns are sharp, and in many places the road is bordered by a rock face on one side and a sheer drop off on the other, this without the benefit of a guard rail or any shoulder to seek refuge from lane intruding RV's being piloted by elderly distracted drivers.

Most of the rare turn-outs that do exist are gravel covered and very uneven, and so care must be taken when stopping to take a picture. In my opinion the best way to get good photographs during the ride is to have your passenger take them without stopping the bike.

I languished over a second cup of coffee while watching the Weather Channel. Eventually my urge to move on got the better of me and I hauled my baggage out to my bike and was soon on my way.

My single fuel stop of the day was before leaving Montrose. As with riding any road through remote country, it's good to plan your fuel stops in advance. Gas stations along the Million Dollar Highway can be found in Ouray, Silverton, and on the outskirts of Durango; running out of fuel should not be an issue if you plan ahead.

The road from Montrose to Ouray is a pleasant one, with long straight stretches through scenic country. There was some construction where the road was reduced to a single lane. Traffic was halted there for about 20 minutes, but as I was in no hurry I shut down my bike and then walked around and took pictures.

Ouray is a very pretty town, but personally I think caution should be in order when stopping there on a motorcycle. While the main road is nicely paved, most of the side streets are gravel and steeply inclined or declined, which could make parking a problem.

Beyond Ouray US-550 quickly gained elevation through a series of tight switchbacks; within a mile of travel I found myself high above the city. The road then straightened a bit, but at the same time narrowed significantly. There was no shoulder, and the drop off to the west looked to be a hundred feet at least. My tendency was to ride to the right side of the lane though because massive and lumbering RV's heading in the opposite direction were frequently invading my lane.

In places the switchback turns were so tight that they were almost comical. Some switchbacks were nearly complete circles that quickly linked to other tight and nearly circular switchbacks.

In general US-550, the Million Dollar Highway, is challenging but not overly difficult. I believe that a rider with only a few years' experience can ride it enjoyably. The trick of it is to not rush, ride within your own limits, and watch the road carefully. Odd as it may sound, on roads such as this I prefer to be riding in a group of slower moving traffic; this forces me to slow down and just enjoy the ride and the scenery.

About 13 miles south of Ouray, US-550 crests the Red Mountain Pass, where there is a paved area to turn off on the west side of the road. The elevation there is over 11,000 feet and the views are spectacular. Iron deposits in the area give the surrounding mountains their red, orange, and yellow colors.

Approximately 140,000 years ago this entire area was covered with a massive ice sheet. In those times only the highest peaks of the mountains were above the ice. According to modern science, people living on Earth back then must have had coal fired power plants and drove CO2 belching SUV's. This is because it was global warming that eventually melted those glaciers, turned the Sahara from a wetlands into a desert, submerged many Neolithic structures, along with Mesopotamian and Egyptian cities, as well as Roman seaside villas; and of course global warming continues to this day. Apparently all this can be blamed on those 140,000 year old SUV's that ran around without sufficient pollution control.

About 11 miles south of Red Mountain Pass is the old west mining town of Silverton. Few people outside of Colorado are aware that more gold was taken out of Colorado than was taken from California and Alaska combined. The geology of the area is such that gold, silver, and other precious metals, along with many gemstones are in relative abundance here. Several of the mines originally opened during the Colorado Gold Rush of the late 1850's are still active today.

Upon reaching Silverton I turned off the highway, then rode down the main street and found a place to park. On this Monday the town was not crowded and finding a place to park was easy. The town of Silverton is at about 9,300 feet elevation and so my bike was behaving temperamentally with a high idle speed.

People who are not used to the altitude should avoid strenuous activity, stay hydrated, and remember to apply sunscreen. Walking the streets of Silverton is an easy activity, there's plenty of shade to be found in the tourist shops and restaurants, and the bars provide ample opportunity for hydration.

I walked around for a while, purchasing gifts for my wife and close friends, and then went into "Handlebars Saloon" for a sandwich and something to drink. I never drink alcohol when I ride, and so I had a coke to drink and the Handlebar Burger to eat.

After lunch I returned to my bike and rode out of Silverton. As I was riding the main street my bike was idling high, and started revving up and down on its own. Frankly I've gotten sick of the issues associated with the PC5 and have recently had it removed and my bike flashed with the Indian download; now it's running much better.

Continuing south on US-550 the highway rises to 10,970 feet at Molas Pass, and then descends again into a beautiful valley where I stopped and took a few pictures. Back on the road again I climbed to 10,640 feet at Coal Bank Pass, where I stopped again for a look around. The actual riding distance between Ouray and Durango is only about 70 miles, but with stops along the way traveling that route may take most of the day.

At Coal Bank Pass I encountered two guys riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and of course a conversation ensued. They were from Florida and were riding across the country together. They were intending to head toward Moab next after a spending a night in Ouray. This sounded like a great trip to me. It's always wonderful to meet like-minded riders on the road, no matter what they're riding.

South of Coal Bank Pass US-550 descends quickly and then flattens into uninspired straight stretches through dry landscape. Eventually I found the Iron Horse Inn and turned in to check it out. It was only about 4pm so I wasn't sure my room would be ready, but decided to check it out anyway.

In comparison to other hotels I've visited, the Iron Horse Inn is huge. It looks like it was originally built to be condo's but was later converted into a hotel. Each room has two floors with sleeping areas both upstairs and downstairs. This is nice because you never have to worry about noisy people tramping around in the room above you.

I checked in at the office and inquired about having an Iron Indian event in their establishment in June of 2016. The person I spoke with enthusiastically answered my questions and said the June is a typically dry month, so the weather should be nice. They also said they could reserve a block of rooms for us and give Iron Indian members a 10% discount upon check in if they show their IIRA membership card.

My room had a fireplace (firewood is available in the office), a microwave, and a small refrigerator. The 2nd bedroom loft upstairs seemed hot to me, but they had a portable fan that might make it more comfortable. My room was large and very comfortable.

The Iron Horse Inn also has a laundry and recreation area with an air hockey and other video games. They also provide a continental breakfast for their guests every morning. Outside there was a pool, a children's play area (under construction), and a row of picnic tables and charcoal barbeques available for guest use. The only problem I saw with this set up was that there was no shade.

In the months since I made this trip several Iron Indian members have volunteered to bring large tents with them when they come for the Iron Indian Rocky Mountain Reunion in June 10-13, 2016. I think this event is going to be one hell of a good time.

That night I rode in to Durango and ate at an Applebee's Restaurant.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015: 367 miles to Kanab UT.

It was another early morning and I was anxious to be on my way. This would be the first of three days of riding through the Great Fried Empty, aka the desert southwest. In this area of the country it's best to get on the road early in order to miss as much of the heat of the day as possible.

While it's true that every landscape in every part of the country is beautiful in its own unique way, I find desert expanses unpleasant and am usually am in a rush to get them behind me. Where there is water there is life, and so where water is limited life struggles. The plants that exist in such a brutal place are rugged and harsh, and the animals that live there are can be brutal and unforgiving. In short, this is definitely not a place to have your motorcycle break down.

The morning was still cool and damp as I left the Iron Horse Inn behind and headed south on US-550 toward Durango. Morning traffic through Durango was pretty much non-existent and I made good time through the city. At the junction of US-160 I turned right and headed west.

About 50 miles down the road I made my first gas stop of the day in Cortez. After filling up I went inside the station convenience store and bought a bottle of water. It's always a good idea to carry water when venturing into the desert.

After traveling about another 30 miles I turned on to CO-41N, which would become UT-162 W once I crossed the Utah border. I avoided the Four Corners Monument as there is nothing really to see there. The only thing that's vaguely interesting at the site is the lines marked where four states meet. I've been told that the monument actually isn't at the actual geographical location where the states meet; instead it's placed where it is because it's convenient to the highway. Other than the misplaced monument, all that's there are booths where Native Americans sell jewelry and other trinkets.

After leaving the town of Montezuma Creek behind I was riding at about 70 mph along the side of a series of bluffs when suddenly a sign appeared saying "Road Damage Ahead". I braked and saw that immediately before me the road had a wide trench cut across it that looked to be filled with large rounded river rocks. I slowed as best I could and then released the brake just before my bike reached the trench. As I crossed the smooth stones that filled the trench I felt my bike skitter a bit, but I made it safely to the other side. It's never a good idea to be braking hard when the surface of the road changes abruptly.

About 10 miles further down the road I stopped in the town of Bluff UT for fuel. This is a one gas station town; I believe that when you're in the middle of no-where it's a good idea to fill up often because you never really know if the next planned gas station will actually still be there. This was a nice cleanly run station with a Motel next door called the Kokopelli Inn. After filling up I went into the convenience store and bought myself a cold coffee. The landscape I had been riding through was sparse and uninteresting, and in these circumstances I like to keep a high caffeine level in my system.

After leaving the town of Bluff behind I picked up US-163. This road took me by Mexican Hat UT, then on through the Monument Valley. This is a very scenic area, but it can be a treacherous place to pull off the road to get a picture when you're riding a motorcycle.

As I was approaching one of the many fantastic vistas, I saw that a motorcyclist off the side of the road with his bike tipped over. The guy was riding a Harley-Davidson Road Glide, and had pulled off the road and been surprised by the drop off from the tarmac onto the steeply downward sloping gravel. His bike had tipped over with the wheels up the hill, higher than the rest of his bike. The lone rider was desperately trying to lift his bike back onto its wheels again, which was an impossible task with an 800+ pound bike heavily loaded with luggage.

I stopped on the road as there was no place to pull off. This was on a long straight stretch so I could be seen from a distance, and I set my emergency flashers on to be sure oncoming cars would go around me. I rushed down the hill and tried to help him lift his bike, but even the two of us couldn't lift it much beyond a foot off the ground. Fortunately there was a group of Japanese tourists nearby tanking pictures, and two young Japanese men ran over and helped us right his bike.

Once we got him upright, we held the bike until he got in the saddle and the engine started, then we stood by and made sure he got his bike to a level place where he could park. The rider assured us then that he could make it back onto the road unaided.

One thing that was sadly interesting was that he had pulled off at an Indian Gift store, where there were several Native Americans sitting idle waiting to sell their trinkets to passing tourists. During the entire process of righting this guy's bike, none of the Native Americans budged from their seats. They just sat there and watched. Had they helped I'm sure the Road Glide owner would have gladly bought several of their items out of gratitude. I guess it was just too much trouble getting their fat asses out of their chairs to help another human being.

On the other hand the Japanese tourists, none of which seemed able to speak English, helped us willingly and enthusiastically. These were genuinely nice folks, good people, and where ever they are, I wish them well.

Further down the road I stopped at the border of Utah and Arizona to take some pictures. There's a tourist center there where people can take busses to explore and get a better view of the buttes in the area. As I was walking around I saw a young couple trying to take a "selfie" picture of them together in front of a large "Monument Valley" sign. I offered and then took their picture, afterward we struck up a conversation. They were from Switzerland, a country I visited many years ago.

Whenever I come across visitors from other countries I try to be as friendly and accommodating as possible. A one on one encounter can frame a visitor's opinion of our country and our people, so I do my best to make a positive impression.

I continued on US-163 through the rusty red desert expanse until I came to the town of Keyenta where I stopped at a gas station for fuel and another cold coffee. By this time the heat of the day had really taken hold. According to my bike thermometer it was 95 F, but it felt much warmer than that.

Leaving Keyenta behind me I headed west on US-160. The heat was taking its toll on me by this time and I was feeling sleepy and was anxious to find my motel and stop for the day; unfortunately I still had 150 more miles to go.

The roads in this area were pretty much straight and traffic was light, so I opened the throttle to lay some miles down behind me as quickly as possible. After about 30 miles on US-160 I turned west on AZ-98 and went 65 miles before stopping for gas again in Page AZ.

After picking up fuel I headed out on my last leg of the day. I crossed the Lake Powell dam, and then followed US-89 north for 75 miles to the town of Kanab UT. My motel for the night was the Four Seasons Motor Inn.

Originally KR had asked to share rooms on our trip together and so I had made sure to book large double rooms. The room I had at the Four Seasons was practically cavernous, with two king sized beds, a separate full sized couch set up to watch the television, and a large bathroom. The motel was an older one though, and in much need of renovation. Some of the electrical outlets didn't work and the room stank of cigarette smoke. Still though, it was a good place to hunker down for the night.

There were no restaurants close by, and so I took a long walk into town. I could have ridden my bike of course, but it felt good to stretch my legs. On the way into town I passed numerous plaques along the road testifying to the movies and Hollywood stars who had stayed there while filming epic westerns. The original Planet of the Apes was also filmed just outside of town.

I ate dinner that night at Big Al's Burgers. The burger and fries were great, but the blueberry milk shake was really exceptional.

Ahead of me lay two more days of riding through the desert heat. With a good night's sleep I knew I would be anxious to head out the next morning.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015: 271 miles to Rachel NV.

I woke up early and ready for a ride through Zion National Park, and then on to Rachel NV.

The route through Zion NP I had discovered accidentally when planning the route for this trip on Google Maps. The little squiggle through the park looked vaguely interesting at first, but as soon as I saw there was a long and winding tunnel on the route I immediately added it to my route. It's a toll road though, and a $25 toll to boot, but I wasn't going to allow an excessive toll prevent me from experience such a unique road as this.

I took US-89 north out of town then picked up UT-9 west at Mt. Carmel Junction. I always carry cash for toll roads when I travel because paying via a credit card can be a hassle. In this case I had the exact amount ready when I reached to toll booth, and so the transaction went smoothly.

The road through Zion NP is just as challenging as the Million Dollar Highway. The route is narrow and there are frequent switchbacks but it's well maintained so the riding is pretty easy. The mile long tunnel itself is a single lane, and so traffic is held up to allow the opposite direction to pass through. This is not a straight tunnel, but it winds through twists and turns inside the mountain. Occasionally one side of the tunnel will briefly open up to the outside, and the sudden light can be near blinding. The road itself was wet and slick, so I kept my speed down for safety but also just to relish the experience of the ride.

Beyond the tunnel UT-9 follows the Virgin River out of the park and through several small towns. Eventually the highway led me down the cliff face into Hurricane UT. It appears to me that there must have been some massive lava flows around this town at some point in history. The black lava rocks are pretty much everywhere. At the base of the cliffs the temperature had risen to over 100 F.

I suffered through the many stop lights in Hurricane and finally made it to I-15 where I headed south toward Las Vegas. The interstate becomes interesting after passing into Arizona when you ride down and through the Virgin River Canyon. For a ride on the interstate, this section of highway is pretty neat.

I picked up fuel in Mesquite NV, and also took a break from the heat inside the convenience store. I got myself a Gatorade and sat in the diner to cool down a bit before heading out again. The weather lady on the in-store television said to expect 30 mph winds out on the desert. Being from Colorado I'm used to riding in the wind, and a 30 mph wind is not a big deal at all.

Once refreshed I hit I-15 south for about 30 miles then took the Glendale / Moapa exit. I then picked up NV-168 and headed west into the desolate desert expanse. The cross wind that was promised by the weather lady was evident but not immediately a problem.

The only issue I had relating to the wind was with the big rig trucks going in the opposite direction. These guys were traveling close to 70 or 80 mph, and with this being a small two lane road the air blast that hit me as they passed was substantial. I've dealt with this sort of thing before when riding lonely back roads, and learned to be on my guard because the air blast can be pretty unpleasant. At one point my magnetic map holder attached to my fuel tank was blown off the bike and I had to stop and run back to get it.

Eventually I connected with US-93 and turned north. The heat was really beginning to bear down on me by that time, and the air blowing through my engine via the cross wind was roasting my right leg. I've heard other motorcycle owners complain about this heat, and I really don't understand why they are complaining. These bikes have air cooled engines, so they are intended to dissipate heat through the air. When the heat gets too intense for comfort on my leg, all I do is put my feet up on the highway pegs. This removes my leg from the air flow and solves my comfort problem.

Some owners go so far as to put a heat shield in front of the rear cylinder so their leg won't get uncomfortably warm. The problem with this is that the heat shield inhibits the cooling of the rear cylinder of the engine, so these owners are sacrificing their engine just for the comfort of their leg; this does not seem to be a good idea in my opinion.

US-93 at this point is unbending, with a line of hills to the west and a vast desolate expanse to the east. It literally looked as if I were riding through a gravel quarry. The hills blocked much of the cross wind, but the air I traveled through was hot enough to feel as if it were scorching the bare skin of my arms. The environment was so dry that if felt as if it were sucking all the moisture out of my body.

After about 30 miles of straight-as-an-arrow road I began to see signs of greenery. A series of lakes and wetlands appeared on my left which was a welcome sight after so much dreary landscape. Coming into the town of Alamo I stopped for fuel at a Sinclair gas station, and after filling up I went inside to cool off.

The convenience store associated with the gas station also serves as the town's grocery store. I was surprised to see people pushing grocery carts up and down the aisles while purchasing the essentials of life. I bought a bottle of Gatorade and went and sat in the restaurant area to rehydrate and cool off.

The television was on and tuned to a local Las Vegas news station. I was a bit astounded to hear the weather girl on the TV go on and on about how nice and temperate the day was, because it was only 105 degrees. I mean no offence to the people who live in the desert, but I just don't see how anyone can do it. For the summertime at least there seem to be only three daily temperatures; these are hot, damned hot, and too damned hot. This area is interesting to visit, but I personally could not live there.

With a sigh of resignation I left the comfort of air conditioning behind me and went outside. My bike at least had been parked in the shade, so it had gotten a break from the heat as well. I quickly geared up and rode out on the final leg of my trip for the day; 50 miles to Rachel NV and the Little A'Le'Inn.

Just north of Alamo I noticed that there was a Shell gas station. This is a good thing to know about a remote area like this, because if one gas station is closed then you have a backup.

After traveling about 12 miles from the Sinclair station I turned left on NV-375, which is also known as the "Extraterrestrial Highway" because it passes right by Area-51 and there have been numerous sightings of UFO's in the area. Just a bit down the road after my turn was a rest area where NV-375 separates from NV-318. There's a big sign there with a picture of a UFO and the words "Extraterrestrial Highway", and I wanted to get a picture of my bike parked under it.

As I pulled off the highway I was trying to see where I could park my bike so I could get a decent picture, when I noticed that there were a lot of other motorcycles there. I then saw that one of the bikes was an Indian Roadmaster, so after parking I walked over to meet the owner.

As it turned out the rider was not an Indian owner, but had just rented the bike. He was also in a state of panic because he had ridden down on NV-318 from Ely NV and was nearly out of fuel. His exact words were that he was running on fumes. It's only about 145 miles from Ely to where we were, but apparently he had been hitting the throttle pretty hard and his fuel mileage had suffered. I didn't say anything about how dumb it was for him to head out into the desert and not plan his gas stops in advance, but I certainly thought it.

At first all I could think of was the Sinclair station I had come from, and the Roadmaster rider didn't think he could make the 12 miles to the station on the amount of fuel he had left. Then I recalled the Shell station I had passed. I told the Roadmaster rider that the Shell station was only about 5 miles away. He still seemed worried, so I pulled my extra gallon of gas out of my saddlebag and poured half of it into his tank. He wanted to pay me for the fuel, but I told him to just pay it forward the next time he saw someone in trouble beside the road.

After the Roadmaster left I took pictures of my bike in front of the "Extraterrestrial Highway" sign, mounted up and rode the final 40 miles to Rachel NV.

To an outsider such as myself, there really isn't anything in Rachel NV, and I mean that literally. There is the Little A'Le'Inn, and there's pretty much nothing else there. Rachel rests upon an ancient dry lake bed. To the west there are a series of low mountains beyond which lies the equally dry Groom Lake and the Area-51 Military Installation. The Little A'Le'Inn, which consists of a Bar/Restaurant and a series of single wide trailers that make up a motel, is a Mecca for UFO and conspiracy theorists.

Last year on my trip out to this same area I did see some aliens, but it turned out they were from Mexico. Beyond that I really don't give much credence to the notion of space aliens hanging out in the Nevada desert. Frankly, if these aliens are smart enough to get here, then they should be smart enough to find a nicer place to stay.

There are extremely bad ramifications regarding what would happen to human beings should we ever encounter an advanced alien civilization. Consider the fate of Native Americans and Africans when they first encountered Europeans. At that time Europe was literally thousands of years more advanced socially and technologically than were Native Americans and Africans; both of which were for the most part still Neolithic, hunter/gatherer civilizations.

What happened to them when they encountered Europeans? They were either exterminated or used as slaves; and should we ever encounter an advanced alien civilization it's inevitable that the same thing will happen to us. So while I do believe that there are other civilizations out among the stars, I just hope they never find us.

After checking in to the Little A'Le'Inn I unloaded my bags into my room, and returned to the restaurant with my laptop computer. The only WiFi connection at the Little A'Le'Inn is in the restaurant, so I got myself a coke and emailed my wife and friends while enjoying the air conditioning. For dinner I had the special, which was a salad, a grilled turkey sandwich and fries, and a piece of blueberry pie. The home-style food in the restaurant was really good.

I was told that later that night there would be military exercises being run out of the Area-51 base. The exercises wouldn't commence until after dark, so I returned to my room and took a nap. The heat of the day had pretty much done me in, and so in my quiet and air conditioned room sleep came easy.

The sun was setting when I awoke, and I lay there for a few minutes just enjoying the quiet and solitude. When I saw that my cell phone indicated that there was no service I realized that this was one of the more remote places on earth, where contact with the outside world was nigh impossible. I was completely disconnected from everyone and everything in my life; oddly enough, I enjoyed that idea.

I left my room and went to the restaurant and purchased a coke, then went back outside to join the other guests and employees sitting at the picnic tables. There wasn't much conversation as we all were watching the sky.

The stars were moving above us. There was hardly any sound at all and yet the aircraft were moving really fast. One brightly moving white light would shoot off a series of other white lights that would move off in arcs toward another moving star. Occasionally one of the moving white stars would turn red, and it would continue on and eventually the red would fade back to white. This dogfight lightshow went on for over a half hour.

As the dogfight was winding down we saw more bright lights moving in formation across the sky, followed by a massive sonic boom. We saw nothing from the moving stars above, but suddenly there was an explosion out in the desert about a mile from us. One of the Little A'Le'Inn employees said that the military had been setting up targets out in the desert earlier that day.

After several spectacular explosions the exercise abruptly ended, and the show for us was over. The employees left shortly thereafter, leaving only guests sitting at the picnic tables. There were seven of us, two couples and three lone guys, me being one of them. The couples wandered off after a short while and that left the three of us to talk. Of the three, I was the only American; one of my companions was from Norway and the other from Switzerland.

As things usually do when people are left alone, talk soon turned to world politics. I was a bit surprised to find that both my companions were strongly conservative and strongly anti-immigrant. They also had a very hard time conceiving of the amount of the National Debt the United States is carrying. They kept suggesting that it was 18 billion dollars, which they thought was astronomical. I corrected them saying that it was 18 TRILLION and saw confused and befuddled looks on their faces. I told them that the reason for much of this debt was that we were paying people more to not work than they could make if they did actually work, and we were also paying huge benefits to those who are crossing our border illegally.

That lit off a firestorm. Apparently the United States isn't the only country in the world that's being run by idiots. Both Greece and Germany are apparently struggling with invaders to their country that refuse to assimilate and want nothing more than charity. These invaders apparently wreck every camp or neighborhood they get into, and then expect the government to come in and repair the damage that they themselves made.

That sounded awfully familiar to me.

The German was also a strong believer in an alien presence here on earth, and that governments worldwide were covering it up. His belief was that these UFO's were actually not from outer space and alien worlds; instead he thought it more likely that these beings were from our own future. This seemed an interesting theory to me, and I wondered why people in the future would be traveling back here?

No one really had an answer to that. Later, as we each wandered off to our rooms to sleep, I wondered if there was some kind of immigration issue that made future humans want to escape? Our country and the entire world are in turmoil. We have migrations of primitive people storming across borders, causing crime, changing the national character, and generally messing everything up. It seems there's no escaping it for any of us because this same thing seems to be going on everywhere. So I thought, well if I had a time machine maybe I could find a safe and sane place to live out my life, and maybe these aliens that are our future selves have come to this same conclusion.

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Thursday, July 16, 2015: 448 miles to Livermore CA.

The desert is a place of extremes. Most people equate desert riding with heat, and that's definitely justified, but riding through the desert at night or early morning can freeze you to the bone. On the morning I left Rachel NV the sky was a brilliant cloudless blue, and the air was dry and cold.

I packed up my bike, bundled up, and then walked over to the restaurant for a cup of coffee to charge me up enough to get through the morning. Over coffee I said my goodbye's to friends made the night before, then turned in my room key and headed for the door.

It was a nice night's stay, and I enjoyed my time at the Little A'Le'Inn but I doubt that I'll return any time in the near future. This was my second stay in Rachel and so my feeling that morning was a sort of "been-there-done-that" attitude. So I fired up my bike, turned left on NV-375 and headed north without much thought to what I was leaving behind.

NV-375 is one of the loneliest roads in America. The stretch of highway between Rachel and the nearest gas station in Tonopah is 110 miles. A more desolate place would be hard to find. It's a road just made for cruise control, a standard feature on these new Indians that I'm particularly fond of.

As lonely as this highway is, it's still important to remain alert. As I crested a hill somewhere north of Rachel I came upon a bunch of cows just standing in the road. The entire area is open range and so cattle are just another local road hazard. Fortunately I saw them when I was still some distance away, so I was able to slow at a comfortable rate. The cows didn't seem much inclined to move though, they just looked at me with those blank eyes; they aren't intelligent enough to even be curious.

Cows are large animals and I didn't want one of them bumping into me as I rode by. Fortunately I saw a wide path I could take through them, and so I put my bike in first and slowly edged forward. As I neared the group one animal bleated in some form or alarm and bolted away from me and the rest followed suit. Fortunately they didn't panic and run toward me as that would have ended badly.

With the cattle dispersed I was able to continue on my ride north. Cattle are not the only animal hazard on the road though. Several times I saw rabbits and other small critters dart out into the road ahead of me, luckily I didn't run over any of them.

At Warm Springs NV, which seems to be a "town" consisting of a single house, I turned left onto US-6. Other than the highway sign there wasn't much change to the scenery. This highway runs across the northern perimeter of Area-51, and I think the takeoff/landing flight path must be close by as a fighter jet flew low over me as I rode.

Not soon enough I arrived in Tonopah, where I fueled up at a Shell station in town. Tonopah consists of a casino, a few bars and restaurants, and not much more. The town seems to be one of those places that exist simply because it is halfway between one place and another; it's a waypoint and nothing more in my view.

I continued to follow US-6 west through rugged but otherwise unremarkable country. After crossing into California I turned right on to CA-120 at the town of Benton. Beyond Benton Hot Springs the road climbs into a range of low hills. As the road straightens it there are some severe dips, which if you come upon them unexpectedly at high speed could be interesting, and not in a good way.

In time the land around me became more lush and scenic. I passed Mono Lake and stopped at the Tioga Station for gas. I took a break and sat out front on the porch with a cold coffee and recharged my personal batteries a bit. It was pleasant to watch the tourists come and go, the day was warm and the air smelled sweet. Still though, it wasn't long until I got restless for the road.

If I had chosen to continue west on CA-120 I would have passed through Yosemite NP, but that was a ride I had taken last year. So instead I returned the way I came in and turned left on US-395 and continued north. I was destined for CA-108 and the Sonora Pass, a route I had never taken. On the map the road looked to be narrow and full of winding turns, and I was excited to experience it in person.

Riding through the eastern Sierra Nevada foothills was a joy when compared to the barren Nevada desert I had recently left behind. The air was warm and moist and the countryside lush, dotted with farms, and full of life.

After riding about 40 miles I turned left on CA-108 and rode into the mountains. I could see thunderstorm clouds forming over the peaks ahead of me, but I had hopes that I would get over the pass unscathed.

Within a few miles of the CA-108 junction I came across a sign that at the time I though must be a joke. First there was a sign warning trucks with trailers to take an alternate route, then a second sign warning of a 26 percent grade ahead. This had to be a joke; maybe it was a 6 percent grade and someone had added the "2" as a way to scare people off. An 8 or 9 percent grade is pretty steep, but I had never heard of a road boasting a 26 percent grade.

Very soon it became blazingly apparent that the sign was indeed no joke at all. I rode within a group of cars and trucks as the road became increasingly closer to vertical. It was a switchback road up the side of a near cliff. The near 180 degree turns at each end of the steep incline were the worst; the road there was so drastically inclined that I leaned forward onto my fuel tank out of fear of tipping over backward. Had the traffic stopped for any reason, it would have been the end of me. On this steep of an incline I doubted my ability to even stop my bike, let alone get it started up the hill again. Had I stopped I probably would have tumbled all the way down the mountain.

To make the situation all the more unnerving, it started to rain. The sky seemed to open up and the water came down in sheets. Huge drops thundered down out of the thick canopy of trees above me. The road became slick, and I was seriously questioning my sanity when picking this route out on the map.

Finally I reached the top, where I saw a small pull out on the opposite side of the road. Fleetingly I thought about stopping for a photograph, but decided the area looked too precarious for safety and so I continued on.

Then I began the descent. I can't say which I consider more difficult, riding up or down a steeply sloped mountain; neither is much fun. The road was slick enough that I wanted to go slow and engine brake as much as possible. For a while I was the slowest vehicle in our little caravan; I didn't care because in my book it's better to arrive late than not at all.

After a long while the rate of descent lessened, and with the thunderstorm behind me, the sun came out and it was a beautiful day. I stopped for fuel in Mi-Wuk Village, where I paused to sit outside and drink a coke. That was one hell of a ride over the pass. It's a ride that I'm glad I did (and survived), but one that I never want to ride again.

From there I rode out of the mountains at the town of Sonora, through the San Joaquin Valley, over Altimont Pass and into Livermore. The ride through the valley and out into the east SF bay area was crowded and the drivers were overly aggressive, but I've experienced all that before.

I arrived at the Livermore Motel 6 at about 7pm. I got my room, unpacked the bike, and walked over to "zPizza" for dinner. It had been a long day of riding and I was tired and ready to relax a bit then get some sleep.

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Friday, July 17, 2015: The San Francisco Bay Area

I met Ben at a local Coffee house in Old Town Menlo Park. I got there early as I usually do and drank a cup of coffee while I waited for him to arrive.

It's almost impossible to arrive on time anywhere in the SF Bay Area. Invariably you'll either be early or late. If you leave with just enough time to reach your destination on time, either traffic or road construction will delay your commute and you'll arrive late. The only decent alternative to arriving late is to leave early, this gives you a chance to arrive on time but even that's a one in a million shot. Chances are if you leave early you'll arrive early, but that's better than being late in my opinion.

While waiting for Ben to arrive I sat at a table outside. It was a beautiful day; the SF Bay Area has the best year around weather of any place I've ever visited. Generally speaking the difference between summer and winter is whether you wear short or long sleeve shirts.

The last city I lived in out there was Redwood City, which is on the San Mateo Peninsula about 25 miles south of San Francisco. The motto of Redwood City is "Climate Best by Government Test"; my understanding is that our government wasted a batch of money on a climate test back in the 1940's and Redwood City won. I have no idea if the test is accurate, but the weather there is certainly nice.

After a while I heard the rumble of Ben's Block Head Harley and he pulled into the parking lot and parked next to my Indian. Ben was riding his FXR that day, and it looked and sounded good. I think the FXR is one of the best bikes that Harley has ever made.

Ben got a coffee then joined me at my table and we spent some time catching up. I've known Ben for more than 45 years now. It's nice to have a friend with that much history because it makes conversation easy. There's such a level of comfort with someone like that; with someone you have shared many experiences with and gone through both good times and bad, laughter comes easy and silence is never uncomfortable.

That day we rode out on CA-9 through Boulder Creek and out to the coast. We then traveled up the PCH and stopped at Pidgeon Point Lighthouse for a little sightseeing. From there we continued north on the PCH visiting beaches where we would sometimes hang out together when we were much younger. We concluded our ride by heading east at Half Moon Bay, then picking up CA-35 south to Skylonda where we stopped at Alice's Restaurant for a cup of coffee. After that we continued south on CA-35 and took Page Mill Road back to his home in Palo Alto.

I had dinner that night with Ben, his wife, and my God Son. It was Ben's wife that introduced me to my wife who was her best friend from High School. The night was a good one, full of comfortable laughter with longtime friends.

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Saturday & Sunday, July 18-19, 2015: Visiting my daughter and her family.

The next two days were sort of copies of one another. Each day I got up early and went over to my daughter's house where I enjoyed a cup of coffee and watched her and her husband get my grandkids up and dressed for the day. They have given me two awesome grandchildren, a boy and a girl, that are really a blast to be around. They're smart, funny, and very well behaved.

My daughter's husband is a great guy and an awesome father to his kids. He works in construction as a foreman; he's extremely knowledgeable in his chosen field and a tireless worker. My daughter can be a bit of a task master (or is it task mistress?), and so he has almost completely renovated their early 1960's home in Dublin CA. So far he has remodeled the kitchen, bath, and all four bedrooms. His current task is to tear out and remodel their master bathroom. Everything he does is done to perfection.

After the kids were up we took them on outings. On Saturday we went to Stoneridge Mall so the kids could mess about in the play area there, and on Sunday we went to downtown Pleasanton for lunch and then for some ice cream over near the park on First St.

On Saturday my Son-in-law barbequed for us, an on Sunday we all went out to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner. Later on my daughter and I had some private time to just chat and catch up on all that's going on in each other's lives.

I'm always sad to leave them on the last night I am there.

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Monday, July 20, 2015: Déjà vu & Boomerang.

I was bound for Wells NV on what was to be the first leg of my return trip home. Having packed the night before all I had to do that morning was down a cup of Motel 6 coffee, load the bike, fuel up, and then hit I-580 east.

Interstate 580 all the way from Tracy in the San Joaquin Valley to Castro Valley in the east SF Bay Area is one of those career construction zones. To my recollection over the last 40 years there has never been a time when some portion of that highway wasn't torn up with new construction. The people who work for Cal-Trans can spend their entire career working just on this single stretch of freeway. The thing that is really frustrating is that none of this work has resulted in improved traffic flow.

So from Livermore east I rode through a construction zone. The lanes were all chewed up in preparation for new pavement; the tarmac was uneven where they were apparently working on adding an exit lane for Vasco road.

Finally I made it beyond the road work, over the Altamont Pass, and finally out to Interstate 5 in the central valley. Everything was going fine; traffic was light and the riding was easy.

Suddenly I noticed that my bike was bouncing more than it should be. At first I thought I was hitting bumps in the road, but as I slowed the bouncing became worse. So I pulled my bike off the highway under an overpass, parked and had a look at my bike. I couldn't believe my eyes. "Well God damn!" I exclaimed, "Not again!" I had a flat rear tire.

The tire wasn't shredded the way it had been on my Dark Horse when that tire went flat just a few months ago. On that ride out to Branson through Kansas, the flat tire had nearly killed me. This time at least I was attuned to what my bike was doing and had pulled over before the situation became critical.

Still though, who gets two flat tires on their motorcycle in a single year? I do I guess. I felt as if some black cloud of Karma was hovering over me. I had ridden for decades and had never experienced a flat tire, why two tires in a single year? My tires on my bike were new so there was no excuse other than simple bad luck. Maybe some evil spirit had noticed that I was having too much fun and that had thrown the universe out of balance, so he decided to swoop down and mess with me and my bike.

I used my phone to look on-line, and found that the closest Indian dealer was closed on Mondays. The nearest one I could find that was open was Arlen Ness in Dublin CA. In other words, I had to go back to where I had started the day.

I called a towing company in Stockton to come and take me to Dublin, then walked away from my bike and sat in the shade and waited to get picked up. Eventually a couple guys showed up with a flatbed truck. They clamped my front tire and strapped my bike down and we were on our way. They needed to make a stop at their office in Stockton on the way though, so we got off the freeway there and drove to their office.

Stockton apparently has become a very rough place to live. This city used to be a nice working-class city, but now it's filled with gang-bangers. The tow truck driver told me that they wear bullet proof vests when they go out at night to pick up a car. Apparently some people get upset when their car is towed and shoot the tow truck operators. So the lesson here is that if you're riding through California, don't stop to spend the night in Stockton.

When we got to Arlen Ness's Indian dealership in Dublin we saw that the tow truck driver had severely crunched up my front fender when he clamped the bike down. The part of the fender behind the brake calipers was crushed inward and was rubbing against the front tire.

The Service Tech at the dealership said my front tire was ok, and bent my fender back out such that I could make it home. Once he had my rear tire off he called me into the service bay to show me what he had found. I have no idea how it happened but my inner tube had melted into one big globular mass, and that created an imbalance which resulted in the bouncing I had experienced. The tire itself could not be salvaged because where the inner tube had contacted the inside of the tire, the tire itself had melted.

To complicate matters, the dealership did not have the proper inner tube for my bike. It took some hours of calling around before they found something that would fit. Eventually they did find all they needed to find, but my bike would not be ready for me until the following morning.

By this time my daughter had heard from my wife about what had happened, and she called me. She offered to have me sleep at their house that night, and she would drop me back off at the dealership on her way to work the next morning.

So I enjoyed another barbeque and an evening with my grandchildren. Obviously the day was not a total loss.

Originally I had intended to ride north from Wells up to Idaho Falls, through Yellowstone to Cody, over to the Black Hills, and then finally home. However that night I decided to not risk anymore vengeful Karma, and take a more direct route home. At this point I was feeling a little gun shy; wondering what would be the next calamity waiting for me out there on the road. The Fates were trying to tell me something and I decided that it was best to listen; it was time to go directly home.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015: 557 miles to Wells NV.

The next morning I had to wait over an hour for everything to open up at the dealer. The work was done well though, and so I have to commend the Arlen Ness Indian dealership for helping me out of a difficult situation.

It was 11am when I finally got my bike back from the dealer and hit the road again. This was much later than I would have preferred, but I still had plenty of time to roll some miles under me.

I carefully rode through the I-580 construction and retraced my route from the day before. When I passed the overpass where I had broken down I breathed a sigh of relief; I was finally making some headway toward getting home.

I picked up Interstate 80 in Sacramento and headed east then fueled up in Auburn, and rode into the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The Interstate is usually the fast way to go, but it's rarely scenic, however the route along I-80 from Auburn to Lake Tahoe is a beautiful stretch of road. Beyond Reno though, it's a pretty awful ride.

The most direct route home would have been to take US-50 east. This road is also known as "The Loneliest Highway in America". Considering the black cloud of Karma following me around, I decided to avoid lonely highways, and so kept to the Interstate instead.

It was a hot, windy, and generally awful ride, but it was also uneventful, which was a blessing. I took breaks along the way to hydrate and cool down. Whenever I stopped for gas it surprised me that even with a dented front fender people where still coming up to admire my Indian.

I spent the night at the Motel 6 in Wells NV. The town of Wells is pretty desolate, but it has its own beauty. It's quiet there; few places on earth can match the desert at night for silence. The empty landscape is one in which you can stare at with unfocused eyes and find a certain type of inner peace. I had a good meal at a casino/restaurant across the street from the motel, and spent a pleasant night relaxing.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015: 534 miles to New Castle CO.

The desert was cold that morning. After packing up and fortifying myself with Motel 6 coffee, I put on a sweater and a heavy leather jacket and hit the road.

Interstate 80 East from Wells goes over a few 7000 foot passes through the mountains before descending to the Great Salt Lake. It was cold going over the passes, but not as bad as I had expected. I got gas in Wendover before heading out on the highway across the Salt Lake.

At one point I-80 runs straight as an arrow for a hundred miles across the flat white expanse. It's an experience that can be quite mind numbing. I suppose this road would be a good excuse for having a stereo on a motorcycle, but I just turn on my mental radio and am always fine. I have no need for added electronic complexity on my bike.

Sometimes when I'm riding in conditions such as these I play math games in my head. Mostly I calculate how long it will take me to reach my destination if I maintain a certain speed. The easiest speed to work with is 75 mph because it works out to be 1.25 miles per minute. This works out to be 5 miles for every 4 minutes, so the time it would take me to ride 100 miles at 75 mph is 80 minutes, because 5 x 20 = 100, and 4 x 20 = 80.

Working with 80 mph is also pretty easy also because it turns out to be 1.333… miles per minute, or 4 miles every 3 minutes. So it will take 75 minutes to cover 100 miles, because 4 x 25 = 100, and 3 x 25 = 75.

The thing to understand about all this mental calculation is that the route across the Great Salt Lake must be pretty dull if you have to do math to keep yourself entertained.

In Salt Lake City I stopped at the Indian dealer, which was right next to the Harley dealer on State Street. It was a small dealership with more used Harleys on the floor than they had Indians. The people were nice though, and the dealer shirt I picked up is pretty cool.

Leaving the dealer behind I rode south on I-15 and then took the exit for US-6 and picked up fuel. As I was filling my tank the skies pretty much opened up. It rained so hard that the street in front of the gas station flooded. So I went into the station convenience store and got myself a cup of hot coffee, then stood outside under the eaves and watched the deluge.

It took about a half hour for the worst of the rain to pass and the street flooding to subside. The skies still looked pretty grim though, especially in the direction that I was intending to go. The thing is though, that if you wait for perfect weather before going out on your bike, you'll hardly ever ride. So after wiping down my seat and fuel tank with napkins from the convenience store, and donning my rain gear, I fired up my bike and was on my way.

It rained most of the way through the mountains as I followed US-6. To make matters worse, there was construction, and for about 10 minutes traffic was stopped, so I just sat there getting soaked. Eventually the mountains and the thunderstorms faded in the distance behind me, and I turned east on Interstate 70.

After picking up fuel again in Green River UT I continued east on I-70. When traveling the freeway through this part of the country it's important to get fuel at Green River because it will be about another hundred miles or so before you see another gas station.

By the time I reached Rifle CO for my next fuel stop it was late afternoon and I decided to look for a place to land for the night. There was nothing in Rifle, so I went on and eventually found an Econo-Lodge in New Castle where I got a room for the night.

Dinner that night was at a McDonald's across the street from my hotel.

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Thursday, July 23, 2015: 216 miles to home.

I've ridden the route home along I-70 so many times now that everything sort of blends into a single memory. The route between Grand Junction and Denver is one of the most pleasurable rides you can find on the Interstate. It takes you along the Colorado River, through Glenwood Canyon, and over two 11,000 mountain passes including a ride through the Eisenhower Tunnel.

At Denver I took the C-470 loop around the city and connected with I-25 south, by then I was practically home. I did stop at the Littleton Indian dealer to get an estimate to fix the damage made by the tow truck to my fender. Once home I contacted the towing company with the estimate and they paid for the repair in full.

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Afterthoughts.

On the whole this was a good ride, marred only by the flat rear tire near Stockton CA. Other than that everything went smoothly. However at the time I considered that flat tire to be the third strike on my yearly long rides. Once I got home I cancelled everything I had set up for a ride to Maine I had intended taking in September.

Being superstitious, I was a bit spooked by the VCM blow up in March and the flat tires in June and July, and so I decided to only take three trips this year instead of my usual four. The Spirit Guides that had been protecting me this year had been overworked and it was time to give them a break.

In the next few weeks I would also decide to have my Power Commander 5 taken off my bike and to have it returned to a standard Indian configuration. In this operation I would also have my Thunder Manufacturing AC removed and go with the Indian Thunderstroke AC along with the proper download to make the bike run right. I'll write about the results of this change in another article.

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 + Open : 2015: Michigan U.P.

TRAVEL: Michigan Upper Peninsula

"We are torn between a nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known."
      - Carson McCullers

Going where I've never gone before

It was a dog whistle moment. My head snapped around to look directly at my wife, and I said "What did you just say?" She gave one of those sighs women give when they have been talking for a while and suddenly realize you've not been listening. She said, "I said, why don't you take another motorcycle trip before winter hits?"

"Do you mean that?" I asked, thinking that this must be some kind of a trap. Did she want me out of the house for some reason? Was this an excuse for her to go on an excessive shopping spree? What was behind her suggestion; we all know the adage, 'What's too good to be true, probably is.'

"Of course I do", she answered. "You'll be cooped up all winter, so you should take one last trip this summer."

Suspicious, but wanting and hoping that she actually meant what she said, I cautiously asked, "How long of a trip do you think I should take?"

"A few days," she answered, "whatever you want."

"I've seen everything close by, so how would you feel about a week long trip?"

"That's fine" she replied, "do what you want."

My 'Woman-speak translator' was buzzing alarmingly. I've learned that when a woman says 'that's fine' it usually means that you must NOT do what she just said was fine. Still though, she did say it was fine, and I had itchy feet and really wanted to take a nice long ride, so I said, "Ok, I'll start planning my route."

To those men who say that I should just and do what I like without consideration of my wife's feelings, I say you should try being married. Marriage is a partnership, and one spouse being gone for a long period of time puts a strain on their partner.

It's an inconvenience not only with the around the house chores, but also caring for both our own pets as well as the rescue animals we foster. Both my wife and I do volunteer work at a local animal rescue shelter, so when either of us is away the other must pick up the slack and do their work in addition to our own at the shelter. So it isn't about getting permission; it's about consideration for the sacrifice your partner is making.

It was already early September so I would need to plan quickly. September is a month of changes in Colorado; warm temperatures quickly fade, and our first big snow of the winter usually occurs in early to mid-October.

Where could I go that I'd never been to before? Durango, Sturgis, Yellowstone, I had already been to these places. Then it dawned on me that I've never rode a motorcycle in Michigan. I'd heard horror stories about Detroit and Dearborn though so the lower portion of the state held no interest for me, but what about the Upper Peninsula? And could I get there and back within a week?

I went into my office and pulled up Google Maps on my computer. A quick look at a possible route of north to Interstate 90, then up to and around the perimeter of the peninsula, then back home via Interstates 35 and 80 would be roughly 3,000 miles. At 500 miles a day I could do it in six days; this would allow me to make the trip and still be back in time to help my wife at the animal shelter.

So I started planning my route and making motel reservations along the way. I also changed the oil and inspected my bike in preparation for the trip.

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Sunday September 13, 2015. 524 miles to Wells SD

It was a perfect Colorado morning; the sky was a crystal clear blue and the bright sun still hung low over the eastern horizon. It was a cold morning, but the day would probably warm so it looked like it would be an excellent day to ride.

As usual I had gotten on my way early. The first leg of my route would take me north on Interstate-25 through Denver then on into Wyoming. Denver being the congested morass that it is, I've found it best to get through the city early and as quickly as possible.

Aside from its public image of it being a clean and friendly mile high city, Denver is a sanctuary city with high crime and a corrupt police force. Within the motorcycling community it's generally advised to stay clear of Denver, and if you must pass through, stay on the freeway and get out as soon as possible.

Once beyond Denver I started to relax. The ride from the city to the Wyoming border is a fairly dull one. The freeway is mostly straight with traffic congestion easing the further north you ride. There's a large metal buffalo cut out at the top of a hill as you cross into Wyoming, and from there it's a pretty short ride into Cheyanne.

I picked up gas in northern Cheyanne then continued north on I-25. If you're heading north on the interstate from Cheyanne it's best to get fuel before leaving the city because it's about 70 miles until you see another station.

The freeway is the best way to knock down miles quickly, so on this trip I kept to I-25 for about 80 miles, then turned off onto US-26 and headed east. From this point on I would stay on US or state routes all the way into the Black Hills and the town of Sturgis. I turned left onto WY-270 then after 40 miles turned east onto US-20.

I fueled up in the town of Lusk WY. The day had turned hot and I needed a break, so I got a cold coffee at the convenience store and sat out front and relaxed a bit. I also removed my sweater and stored it away on the bike; from here on I would only need my t-shirt and Iron Indian Cut.

Refreshed and refueled I continued riding north on US-85. The highway between Lusk and the Black Hills is mostly straight, following a course over rolling grasslands. It's an easy ride although a bit on the dull side, but not as mind numbing as other places I've ridden.

Once beyond Newcastle WY the elevation increases and the land becomes more lush and interesting. The road begins to twist after crossing the South Dakota border and entering the Black Hills. It's a beautiful ride that's made easy by wide and well maintained roads. I suppose this is a benefit of the annual Sturgis Rally; the area must get enough revenue to keep the roadways well cared for.

I like riding in the Black Hills region, but don't feel that the area has truly earned its motorcycle riding mecca reputation. Setting aside the monumental carved heads in the mountains there, I believe the highways and byways of the Rocky Mountains provide a superior riding experience. However since I live in Colorado, I'm probably biased.

I rode through Deadwood then on into the town of Sturgis. While there I took some pictures of my bike in front of the Sturgis dealership (which was closed unfortunately), and stopped at a tourist shop to buy shirts for my friend Ben and his son. After that I fueled up and headed east on I-90.

I followed the interstate through Rapid City, and then on to Wall SD. I had a reservation at the Motel 6 there, and it turned out to be a good place to spend the night. Wall SD is actually somewhat famous for its old style Drug Store. On this trip though I didn't have time to hang around town to see the store, but I'll try to visit it when I'm in that area of the country again.

Dinner that night was at a Subway restaurant across the street from my motel. The evening was relaxing and enjoyable, and I slept well.

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Monday September 14, 2015. 582 miles to La Crosse WI

The morning was cool and damp, with clear skies. I had a good ways to go that day, so I hit the road early and laid the hammer down on my bike. I needed to make good time and so I set the cruise control on my bike at 85 mph, this would be just above the interstate speed limit in South Dakota; fast enough to make good time, but not so fast as to attract undo notice from the police.

There's a bit of a quandary when riding on the interstate. The way the EFI fuel map on my bike is configured, the fuel mileage is in the mid to upper 40's up to about 70 mph, but once that boundary is crossed the fuel mileage drops off quickly. Above 75 mph the mileage averages in the low to mid-30's. So I'm traveling faster down the interstate, but I have to stop for fuel more often. So I wonder am I actually making better time at a higher speed with more fuel stops, or would it be better to ride slower and require fuel less often? I've not figured out the answer to this question yet.

My first fuel stop of the day was after 150 miles, in Oacoma SD. When I pulled off the freeway my low fuel warning light was on. Normally when I'm riding back roads, the warning light doesn't show up until I'm well beyond 180 miles.

About 90 miles after leaving Oscoma I saw a sign for a Laura Ingles Wilder homestead museum. Back when my daughters were little I read the entire "Little House" series to them as bedtime stories. Written as they were by someone who actually lived through the pioneer period and crossed this country in a covered wagon, I think these novels are important for young people to experience. I think my daughters enjoyed the books, and I have since purchased the book series for both my daughters so they can read them to their children.

At Sioux Falls SD I pulled off the freeway and found the Indian dealer. I strolled around the dealership a bit while chatting with a salesman. They had a Dirty Bird custom Indian build on the showroom floor that caught my eye. While I don't care for the "big wheel" style, the paint and the other features of the bike looked pretty good; it was not a machine I'd consider riding across the country though.

While talking to the salesman, another sales guy came in from outside and announced that a numbered bike was in the parking lot. That was my bike of course, the 463rd new Polaris/Indian bike built. I told the salesman how I had ordered the bike without even knowing what it would look like. I had seen pictures of the engine when it was first shown it off at Daytona, and had taken a leap of faith that the rest of the design would do justice to the old school look of the engine; I wasn't disappointed.

I bought a shirt at the dealer, and then rode across the street to get gas at a Flying J truck stop. Once fueled up I quickly regained the freeway and continued my journey east. For the most part South Dakota is all flat farm land, however lakes become more frequent the further east you ride, which makes that part of the state somewhat more scenic.

The speed limit had dropped from 80 to 75 mph east of Sioux Falls when I crossed the Minnesota border, so I slowed by speed to 75 mph which improved my fuel mileage a bit. After riding another 130 miles, I pulled off the freeway for my next fuel stop at the small farming town of Blue Earth MN.

Once back on the freeway I continued my trek east. Traffic had started to build and so I was frequently riding as slow as 65 or 70 mph. At one point the car in front of me swerved suddenly to avoid shreds of a big rig tire that had come apart. Fortunately I was moving slowly enough that avoiding the debris in my lane was easy.

Avoiding the tire shreds reminded me of the "Negative Target Fixation" lesson my father taught me. Basically what this lesson entails is that we ride toward what we are looking at. If I had looked at the tire shreds I may well have run over them. However I have trained myself to look at the clear spaces between obstacles, and so it was without much thought or alarm that I just steered my bike around them.

Beyond Wyattville MN the land became hilly and eventually descended into the Mississippi River Valley. Road construction loomed its ugly head as I crossed the border into Wisconsin. The road was rough, traffic congested and forced into narrow lanes, and the exits were poorly marked. In a short while though I rode across the Mississippi River then turned off the highway and found the Motel 6 where I would stay the night.

The motel was in a strange location, on a frontage road off of an expressway, between a U-Haul rental place and a Pizza Hut. It was a little industrial, but seemed to be a safe enough place to stay.

I was very pleasantly surprised by the friendly person at the desk when I checked in. When I asked about where to eat he actually walked outside with me and gave directions to a family style restaurant that was just down the street. He also made sure he gave me a room with a good view of my motorcycle. Every person I met in Wisconsin was this way, extremely friendly and amenable to good conversation.

I ate dinner that night at the La Crosse Family Restaurant that was only a short walk from my motel. This restaurant was much like a Perkin's Restaurant, with friendly staff, good comfort food, and pie for desert.

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Tuesday September 15, 2015. 444 miles to St. Ignace MI

This would be the first of the two days that I had come this far to experience. Taking back roads for the most part I would cross Wisconsin then wander into Michigan following the southern edge of the Upper Peninsula.

This was all new ground for me. I was only 7 years old the last time I was in Michigan. My parents and I were traveling in our small private plane, a Piper Tri-Pacer, returning from a visit to my mother's family in Atlantic City NJ. Rather than return via a direct route my father had flown us north to Detroit, where he had grown up.

Although the city was not as nice as my father remembered it, it was not the hell hole that it is today. I remember we stayed in a large hotel downtown, and that we had rented a car that my father used to drive us to the house where he grew up. I wish I remembered where that house was; it's forgotten now though, lost in the tangled cobweb of my mind.

From that long ago trip I recall riding on an old style paddle boat on the Detroit River that took us to an island where we spent the day. It must have been the 4th of July when we were there, because I also remember standing with my back against a brick building that looked out over the river where fireworks were being shot off from a barge out on the water. Being from a small town, this was the first time I had seen fireworks of that scale. I was astonished at the sight, and still remember feeling the concussion of the explosions against the building behind me.

When I initially told my wife I was riding to Michigan, she exclaimed in alarm, "You're not going to Detroit, are you?" The Michigan Upper Peninsula could not be more different than Detroit; the two are as different as New York City is to La Honda California.

In my estimation, there are no cities on the Upper Peninsula; large towns' maybe, but no cities. The people who live there call themselves "Yoopers" and have an accent similar to those from New England. Hunting and fishing are the main activities of those that live there, whereas the more famous activities of Detroit seem to be mostly murder and mayhem.

I had awoken early because I was anxious to get on my way. While gulping down two cups of Motel 6 coffee I quickly packed up and loaded my bike. Heading out, I stopped for gas at a station at the end of the block, then regained Interstate 90 and headed east.

After about a half hour on the interstate I took the exit for county road PP which connected with WI-21 East. This was an exceptionally beautiful ride that took me through serene farm land, bucolic little towns, and around stunning deeply blue lakes.

When I would stop to take a photograph, people would actually stop their cars so that they would not block my shot. This is one of those places where if you have a passenger on your bike, you delegate her as the designated waver, because everyone you pass waves to you. I have never encountered a friendlier people; they are the epitome of what Americans should be.

It was a really stunning ride; so relaxing, so easy, and so right that I wished it could have gone on all day. Unfortunately I had a timetable to maintain, and so I pressed on, leaving the idyllic countryside behind when I stopped for gas in Oshkosh.

From Oshkosh I rode north on Interstate 41 to Green Bay where I stopped at an Indian Dealer and bought a t-shirt. This is a small dealership that's pretty far outside of town. The salesman told me that the dealer was fairly new, but they already had an IMRG chapter there and were doing fine.

I then fueled up and continued north on I-41 / US-41. Once the interstate ended and the US highway took over the congestion of the city fell away and the country side opened up. Once across the Menominee River I was in Michigan. I then took the turn for M-35 and rode along the shore of Green Bay. This was a fairly straight two lane road through wooded country on one side and houses backing up the Lake Michigan on the other.

It was already mid-afternoon when I got gassed up in Escanaba MI. It was still pleasant out, but the day was cooling fast. I still had 140 miles to go before stopping for the night; so I took the turn for US-2 and continued east.

US-2 took me through the Hiawatha National Forest. Considering the extent of the vegetation, I have trouble imagining how Native Americans and early Europeans to the area managed to get around at all. They must have traveled across the lake, because the forest is so dense that it's just about impenetrable. Without machinery or tools to cut roads it would be impossible to move about inland; the trees grow so close together that they form a single hedge that blankets the entire countryside.

I stopped here and there for photographs, but mostly I kept pressing onward. I imagined that this country would be filled with wild game, and at night it seemed very likely that animals would be out on the road, so I did not want to be riding after sunset.

It was a beautiful ride though. Lake Michigan appears in many ways similar to the ocean. The lake is so vast that you cannot see the opposite shore; water stretches all the way to the horizon, and there are waves and tides just like the sea. The sand along the shore is very finely grained, similar to what is found on the Carolina shore of the Atlantic. It's sand that is but one step away from becoming powder.

At the Atlantic this finely ground sand is a sign of its vast age, but on the shore of the Great Lakes I don't believe that's the case. I think the powdery sand is the effect of glacial erosion that ended only about 10 to 15 thousand years ago.

It was about 7pm when I arrived in St. Ignace and found the Super 8 motel where I would spend the night. This was a very nice place to stay, and I highly recommend it. The staff was all very friendly, my room was nice, and the setting was beautiful. It was also very convenient to have a gas station next door, and two restaurants close by.

I soon discovered the St. Ignace is pronounced 'Saint Ignuss', and the Mackinac Bridge is called the 'Mackinaw Bridge'. Initially I was confused by the sign for "Pasties" across the street; I must admit that I thought of the nipple covers that strippers / exotic dancers sometimes wear. As it turned out a Pasty, pronounced 'pahsty' is a sort of meat or fruit pie. Pasties are a local delicacy; they use the material that we usually see on the top of a piece of pie, and they wrap and braid it around whatever they put inside, and then bake it. It's really delicious.

Unfortunately I did not discover what a Pasty was until the next day, and so I ate dinner that night at the Big Boy Restaurant that was next to my hotel. The food was good there, but had I then known what a Pasty was, I would have had one for dinner.

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Wednesday September 16, 2015. 418 miles to Duluth MN

This was my turn around point; every journey has one. This is the point where you stop moving away from your life and home, and start returning to it. I always feel a little sad on these days; yes there are new things to see and do on the return part of the trip, but still it feels as if my leash has been jerked and I dutifully must return.

Not that I don't have a good life, because I do. I'm married to a wonderful and understanding woman, live in a nice home, and I'm retired so I no longer have any sort of daily grind. By any standard life is good for me, but still turning around makes me sad.

In a sense I'm like a tree lamenting that I have roots. There is security and there is freedom; each must be sacrificed for the sake of the other. To be rooted in place is secure, but such a state limits our experience of life. Death is the ultimate security; the dead fear nothing because nothing can be taken from them. To leave the road behind then is to give up being alive for a little while.

I ate a light breakfast in the common area of the hotel. Super 8 is good this way in that a continental breakfast is included with the price of the room. After breakfast I hauled my luggage outside, secured it to the bike, and was on my way.

I traveled north on Interstate 75 for only a few miles before branching off to take M-123. This route took me through some of the densest forest I have ever seen. The foliage was so thick that I had no idea what the landscape was like beneath it. All I saw was the unbending road lined on either side by an impenetrable forest hedge.

Eventually the forest thinned and the road wandered through small towns and by scattered farms. The road itself was pretty straight and for the most part unremarkable.

After about 55 miles I turned onto M-28 and headed west. For 80 miles this road ran pretty much straight as an arrow through marsh lands and some scattered woods. I imagine that during some parts of the year the mosquitos in this area must be horrific. The mix of standing water and trees was scenic though, and I enjoyed the ride.

I got fuel in the town of Munising then went a bit further and stopped at Muldoon's Pasties & Gifts. This is where I discovered what a Pasty is. Had I to do this trip over again, I would eat nothing but Pasties while in the Upper Peninsula.

In conversation with the lady working the cash register at Muldoon's, I learned that Yoopers (people from the Upper Peninsula) don't much care for being a part of the state that is home to cities such as Detroit and Dearborn. Culturally the Upper Peninsula is a world away from those places, and being connected by only a bridge (the Mackinac), they consider themselves to be the 51st state.

While at Muldoon's I ate an apple Pasty, which was delicious. I also talked a bit with other tourists. My Indian is always a good conversation starter, but after we discovered that we all were conservative politically the discourse veered sharply to the right and in no time we all agreed that the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

Back on my way again, I rode along the shore of Lake Superior, stopping here and there for photographs. While riding along the shore of the lake, I marveled at the beauty of the country side and envied the homes I saw standing at the edge of the deep blue water. I then veered inland, still following M-28, and rode through low forested hills and small towns. This is an absolutely beautiful part of the country, and I strongly encourage anyone who has not visited there to go.

I stopped for fuel outside the town of Covington MI, where I went inside and purchased a cold coffee, and then sat outside relaxing and enjoying the moment. The countryside was serene and wonderful. Some time ago I read that the entire region of the Great Lakes is slowly rising in elevation. This is a rebounding effect of the ground being depressed by glaciers that were once several miles in depth. The article said that in time, perhaps as little as a few thousand years, all the lakes would empty and the area become a marshland. As I sat outside the gas station I wondered what the landscape would look like once that came to pass.

I continued to follow MI-28 west through the stunning countryside, eventually connecting with US-2. This route eventually brought me back to the shore of Lake Superior at Chequamegon Bay. I rode along the shore again for a while then stopped for gas in Ashland WI.

With a full tank of fuel I continued west on US-2, riding along straight roads surrounded by lush vegetation. As the day was winding down, I noticed that occasionally my engine would sort of skip a beat. It seemed like the engine would cut out for less than a second, and then resume. I pondered this problem as I rode, considering that possibly the bumpy road was causing my throttle hand to move a bit, or maybe my tires were slipping on the numerous tar snakes that sewed the macadam together. The problem was intermittent and didn't seem serious, so I didn't give it too much thought.

In time US-2 merged with US-53, then became Interstate 535 as I neared the city of Duluth. Traffic increased and of course there was road work along the route I as taking. Shortly after my route connected with Interstate 35 South, I got off the freeway and made my way to the Motel 6 where I had reservations for the night.

Almost immediately I realized that choosing this particular Motel 6 was a mistake. The motel was located right next to the freeway, so there was a lot of traffic noise. At the check in desk they copied my driver's license and told me that they routinely send all their guests ID's to the local police because of local gang activity and crime. I was also told that any room with guests after 10pm would be evicted without a refund. Outside, the motel looked beat to death by the weather, the paint was cracked and peeling and the parking lot was riddled with craters. It was too late in the day to find another place to stay, so I parked my bike right outside the window to my room and hoped for the best.

It was sunny and warm, but a bit muggy as well, as I made my way across the parking lot to the Duluth Grill where I had dinner that night. The restaurant food there was poor; my burger was so greasy that it made me feel sick, and the service moved at a snail's pace. As I waited, and waited, for my order to arrive I looked out of the window at the Burger King located in the gas station next door and thought that would have been a better choice.

This was a sour ending to an otherwise wonderful day. Once back to my room I made the best of the situation by hunkering down, watching some television, and emailing with my wife and friends. In spite of the surroundings, I slept well that night.

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Thursday September 17, 2015. 280 miles to Clear Lake IA

I awoke to the sound of running water. In those first dim moments where dream and reality are slowly separating, I considered that possibly someone was taking a shower in a neighboring room. As I became more awake I realized that the sound was much too loud for someone taking a shower, and it seemed as if the noise was coming from outside my window.

After ponderously climbing out of bed and shuffling over to the window, I saw a waterfall careening down onto the tarmac outside. It was raining; water thundered out of the sky in drops that appeared to be the size of small apples that slammed into the already flooded parking lot. My bike was sitting in about 3 inches of water, and the deluge showed no signs of letting up. Riding would be impossible until the rain eased up.

I turned on the television to see what the local weather was predicting and saw that a series of severe thunderstorms were marching through the area. It appeared that the storms would continue for at least a few more hours.

The problem of course was that I needed to get on the road. My intended destination for the day was Lincoln NE, some 592 miles distant. The only way to get through that many miles was to hit the road early and ride hard, but obviously that wasn't going to happen. All I could do was to wait for the rain to pass, lower my expectations, and hope for the best. If I could make it as far as Omaha, maybe I would be all right.

I packed everything up, being careful to double wrap all my electronics in large plastic bags. Then while consuming several cups of Motel 6 coffee, I sat on my bed and watched the weather channel on the television. After nearly three hours it appeared that there was a break in the storms. So I quickly donned my rain gear, loaded up my bike, and was on my way.

It was still raining lightly when I gained I-35 and began my trek south. At first things seemed to be going my way as the worst of the thunderstorms were tracking behind me to the north. The highway dried, and I was beginning to feel positive about the days ride. I thought that I could make up some time if I did not stop at the St. Paul Indian dealer as I had planned, and maybe I could cover enough miles to make the next day's ride home a bit easier.

Then my engine started to cut out again. When this had done this the previous day the interruptions were very brief, so short in duration were they that I thought I had imagined them. This was not so on this day though. The engine would cut out then surge back on strong enough to rock me back in the seat. Riding my bike was like riding a bucking bronco.

I thought that maybe the cause of this problem was that the bike had been thoroughly soaked in the torrential rain before I left the motel. Maybe a wire associated with the Power Commander 5 was shorting out? At one point I pulled to the side of the freeway, got off and had a look around at the bike. Nothing seemed out of place, and when I revved the engine the bike ran fine.

Back on the freeway I noticed that the bike would run fine for 5 or maybe 10 miles, and then would start cutting out and stuttering. This would go on for another mile or so, and then the engine would run fine again.

It was raining again when I stopped in Forest Lake MN for gas. I thought that it would be a good idea to pull the seat and have a look at the battery connections, but there was no sheltered place out of the rain to do the work. So I called the St. Paul Indian dealer and spoke to their service department. I informed them of the problem I was having and that I was coming in and hoped they could have a look at my bike right away because I was passing through and my time was tight. The Service Manager assured me that they would see me as soon as I got in.

By the time I got back onto the freeway the rain had picked up significantly. The further south I got the harder the rain fell. It got bad enough that I turned on my emergency flashers so I could be seen on the freeway, and then it got worse. Rain pounded me as I rode through about an inch of water flowing over the roadway.

Finally it just seemed stupid to go on, and so I pulled off the freeway and found a McDonald's where I could to take shelter. The parking lot at McDonald's was like riding through a quickly running stream. The flowing water was 3 to 4 inches deep and moving fast enough to look like rapids in a creek. I found a place to park on a high spot in the lot and slogged my way into the restaurant.

I was completely soaked. Water had crept down the neck of my rain suit and so my clothes were pretty much saturated. My boots made squishing noises as I walked up to the counter to order a cup of hot coffee. I then sat at a table near the entrance, creating a puddle that stretched a good 5 feet in every direction, and called the dealer informing them that I would be late.

After about 45 minutes the storm eased and I was able to continue my ride to the dealer. When I arrived though it was raining again, and the Service Manager came out and directed me to pull around back and into their service bay. Once inside I described the problem and my suspicion that there was an electrical issue somehow associated with my PC5 module.

The people at the dealer were very friendly and accommodating and they set to work immediately on my bike. In the service area I rid myself of my rain gear, and then sloshed my way into the showroom.

It took several hours but the service tech found two possible problems with my bike. First the PC5 wire to the throttle position sensor was crimped under the fuel tank. He thought this might be the cause of the fast idle issue I had mentioned. Secondly he found the negative connection on my battery was loose, and believed that this could be the source of the engine cutting out.

If I had found a dry place to pull the seat as I had intended, I probably could have solved this issue myself. Still though I was happy with the work done by the service tech and was happy to pay for his work.

When the Service Manager pulled my bike around front the rain was still falling pretty hard. Looking at the weather, I decided to wait a bit before leaving. I had already given up any hope of getting home the next day. I had also called my wife and told her that I would be arriving a day late, on Saturday instead of Friday. She was ok with this as she was more concerned about my safety, and she assured me that she would handle my duties at the animal sanctuary in my absence.

After about a half hour the weather finally seemed to be clearing, so I geared up and headed out. I got gas before hitting the freeway then rode south on I-494. The bike was running fine and so I thought that finally things were starting to work out. And then a guy beeping his car horn pulled up next to me and shouted out his window that my saddlebag had fallen off.

I pulled over to the shoulder of the freeway and saw that yes, my right side saddlebag was gone. Looking back the way I came I saw no signs of it. I asked myself, could this day get any worse?

So I mounted up and rode up to the next exit, and then turned around and went back the way I came. I didn't see any sign of traffic congestion that might indicate an accident caused by my saddlebag, so I continued on for about five miles before turning around again to retrace my route. Where ever my saddlebag ended up I have no idea. I never saw it again.

I gave up trying to find my saddlebag and just continued south, connecting first with I-35 E, then finally I-35 South. By the time I stopped for fuel in Albert Lea it was already getting dark. I had no hopes of making it much further that day, and so once I was back on the freeway I started looking for a place to stay the night.

In the end I found a Best Western Hotel in Clear Lake IA (after first getting lost naturally). This is a more expensive hotel than I usually stop at, but I was pleasantly surprised by a reasonable rate and an AARP discount.

I ate dinner that night at a Bennigan's Restaurant that was next door. The service was slow, but the Broncos were playing football that night and so at least I was entertained as I waited. When I finally got back in my room I felt I could relax at last. What a day it had been.

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Friday September 18, 2015. 523 miles to North Platte NE

The weather outlook for the day could be summed up as wet and cold. More thunderstorms were coming in from the northwest, a prospect I was not happy about. In my luggage, all my clothes were soaked. I had dried a single shirt the night before with the hair dryer in the bathroom. So at this point I was really looking forward to getting home, to a place that was warm, dry, and safe.

After enjoying a quick breakfast at the hotel, I packed up and headed out. It was only 7am when I left; I had many miles to go that day and so I needed to hit the road early. In addition to the normal time constraints of how many miles I could cover per hour, I was bound to lose an hour when I crossed the boundary between Central Time and Mountain Time.

From the seat of a motorcycle Iowa seems to be a vast, flat farmland that just goes on and on. I pushed the bike as fast as I could without attracting too much attention from the local police, and would start looking for fuel when I neared the 130 mile mark on the odometer.

It rained here and there before I got gas near Des Moines. I was used to being wet by then, but the cold was bothering me and I was shivering. After picking up Interstate 80 and heading west the rain began to slack off. I was still cold though and when I stopped for fuel west of Omaha I lingered long enough to drink a hot coffee and warm up a bit inside the station convenience store.

When I passed the Lincoln Indian dealer I considered stopping in. This is where I had purchased my motorcycle; they were a new dealer at the time and so did not have any dealer shirts. I thought it would be cool to get a shirt from the dealer where I bought my bike. By then though my mindset was on just getting as many miles behind me as possible that day, and so I decided not to stop. I'll be up that way again sometime, and getting a Lincoln Indian dealership t-shirt will have to wait until then.

Beyond Lincoln the weather cleared, and it actually became sunny. It was warm enough that when I stopped for fuel again in some non-descript town I shed my rain gear in favor of just a sweater and my IIRA Cut.

I continued west across the wide expanse of Nebraska, and finally pulled off in the city of North Platte where I found a Motel 6 to spend the night. As it was I was lucky that I had pulled off when I did because there was some kind of Train Convention going on. Apparently this is a yearly thing in the area because North Platte hosts a really large train yard.

I ate dinner that night at a Burger King that was about a block away from the motel. The motel itself was on the dingy side, but the people there were nice. They also had a laundry, so after eating I pulled my soaked clothing from my luggage and put it all in their driers. Sometimes when you're on the road, dry clothing is the height of luxury.

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Saturday September 19, 2015. 314 miles to Home

The last few days had been rough, and so I was anxious to get home. But the thermometer on the bank sign next door informed me that it was 38 degrees outside, so it appeared that this day would be another test of my endurance and pain tolerance.

I lingered inside for an extra half hour or so, hoping that the day would warm a bit before I headed out. So while I waited I drank Motel 6 coffee, repacked my bags, and watched the weather channel on the television.

When I left North Platte behind me it was just 46 degrees, but the sky was clear and the sun was bright so I was hoping that the day would soon warm. For once my wishes came true and within an hour of starting out the temperature had risen into the lower 60's.

I picked up fuel just before the Interstate 76 turn off. As little as 5 years ago, there weren't many gas stations along the northern section of I-76, which made it important to fuel up before heading down that way. Things have improved though and that precaution really isn't necessary anymore; old habits die hard though.

The route along I-80 and I-76 is pretty mind numbing, and in these circumstances I tend to play mind games. On this occasion I was watching my odometer and comparing it to the mile markers at the side of the highway. From what I saw my bike registers slightly less than what the roadside markers indicate. By watching this over the course of quite a few miles I determined that 8 miles as measured on my odometer was equivalent to 8.1 miles according to the road markers. So if my speedometer was reading 80 mph, I was probably actually traveling at 81 mph. This probably wouldn't make a difference in a speed trap, but it was still good to know.

After picking up fuel in the town of Brush CO, I headed south on CO-71. This is a route that would let me avoid going through Denver, and is actually a shorter and quicker way home. CO-71 is a 2 lane rural road through farmland that passes by a forest of giant wind turbines. It's a very lonely stretch of highway though, with no gas stations at all along the way.

The road is bumpy though, especially at higher speed. For a while the road would be smooth enough for cruise control, which can automatically shut down if you hit a bump, then the surface would get rough and I'd have to switch back to using the throttle again. It was during one of these transitions just north of the town of Last Chance, when my engine suddenly shut down.

There was no place immediately available to pull off, so I coasted a bit then finally had to push the bike off the highway and onto an intersecting dirt road. As I put the kickstand down and stepped off the bike, I wondered if I was cursed. "What the bloody fucking hell", I muttered. As I walked around the bike nothing was evident as a cause for the shutdown. My first thought was that the battery connection had come loose again. I had no way of checking this though because all of my tools had been in the saddlebag that had fallen off my bike back in St. Paul.

I tried to figure out what was wrong. It actually didn't take long to eliminate the battery connection because the bike would power up and the fuel pump would charge when I hit the on button; it just wouldn't start though.

So there I was, once again stuck in the middle of nowhere.

I called and left a message for my wife telling her that my bike broke down, and then started looking for towing companies nearby via my smart phone. There I was stuck in the middle of nowhere, so of course there were no nearby towing companies. I tried Littleton and found one there, but just as I was about to contact them, my wife called and told me that my Son-in-Law had a trailer and was ready to come out and pick me up. It would be a long drive though, so it would take a few hours for him to arrive. Towing is expensive, so I agreed to have him come out and get me.

I waited for about 30 minutes just walking around and looking at the scenery. Then as I stood next to my bike I noticed that something seemed out of place. "Could it be something so simple?" I thought as I flicked the emergency shutdown switch. I powered up the bike again, and it started right up.

Feeling chagrinned, I called my Son-in-Law and told him not to bother coming to get me, that I had solved the problem on my own. Fortunately he had not left home yet, so at least he wasn't overly put out by my stupidity.

What must have happened was that I may have been in the process of shutting down the cruise control when the bike hit the bumpy section of highway. In that circumstance my hand would have had to reach across the red shutdown switch to get to the cruise control buttons. So when the bump jarred the bike my hand probably hit the shutdown switch without me realizing it.

This is actually the second time this has happened, so I must be a slow learner. So I felt like a complete and utter idiot as I started my bike up and continued on my way south on CO-71.

I picked up fuel in Limon, and then took US-24 on my way back home. With a huge sense of relief I arrived at my house at about 3pm. Being home was like having a weight removed from my shoulders, I was so happy to be there that I considered getting down on my knees and kissing the ground; I guess it's good to have roots after all.

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Afterthoughts

On this trip, the way out was heaven, and the way back was hell. It was a good trip, and I'm glad I went because seeing the Michigan Upper Peninsula was worth every bit of hardship I endured.

Since I returned home, the St. Paul dealer agreed to replace the saddlebag that I lost. Initially there was some reluctance on the part of the Service Manager, but when the Owner, Art Welsh, heard about what happened, he reviewed the video of the service area during my service and he saw that the bag was reinstalled improperly. A brand new saddlebag arrived a few days after I got home.

To prevent any future loss of a saddlebag I have since purchased and installed the Ospry Saddlebag retention system. This system uses actual bolts to hold the saddlebags in place, versus the Indian system of a friction clip. Removing my bags will be a little more complicated than it was before, but they are far more secure, and are now harder to steal when my bike is parked for the night in front of a strange motel. My saddlebags are also rock solid now.

I also took my bike in to the Littleton dealer and had them remove the Power Command 5 from my bike. In its place I had them install the Indian performance software flash on my ECM. While the PC5 did give my bike a significant boost in power, the dependability of the bike took a huge hit. I'll take reliability over performance any day of the week, so I'm happy to be rid of the PC5. I no longer have any idling issues at high altitude, and my bike still runs well.

This trip was a rough one, especially on the return home. With the changes I've since made to my bike though, I'm confident that next year's journeys will be much less dramatic. In fact I'm already planning and mapping out next year's routes.

Happy trails everyone!

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 + Open : 2016: Springfield West

May 2016: Springfield Shakedown

"The connection to place, to the land, the wind, the sun, stars, the moon... it sounds romantic, but it's true - the visceral experience of motion, of moving through time on some amazing machine - a few cars touch on it, but not too many compared to motorcycles. I always felt that any motorcycle journey was special."
      - Antoine Predock

Shakedown

Riding season had already been delayed by blizzards in March and April, so I was starting to wonder if Summer would ever come. It's long been my belief that if you wait for a perfect day, you'll never get your bike out of the garage. So it was time to take a chance on the weather, because waiting is a waste of life. As we say in the Martial Art world, you miss every shot you don't take.

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Tuesday May 3, 2016. Monument CO to Salina UT, 496 miles.

On mornings before starting out on a motorcycle adventure I usually sit out on the deck with my wife watching the birds and enjoying our view of the Colorado Rampart Range. This time, as we sat inside sipping our coffee and looking out upon the cold gray dawn, I was hoping that the worst of the weather had passed us by and was heading east. Just the day before it had snowed in the upper elevations, and with two high altitude passes between me and California, the prospect of icy roads over the passes filled me with apprehension. Descending an 11,000 ft. pass with an 8% grade on an icy road is no fun at all, especially when traveling on two wheels.

Eventually you have to either choose to go, or go back to bed and hide under the covers. So I geared up, kissed my wife goodbye, and was on my way.

I rode my new 2016 Indian Springfield north to Castle Rock on I-25, then exited the freeway for US-85. I picked up fuel in Littleton just before getting on CO-470. This is the most direct route from my house to I-70, heading west into the Rocky Mountains.

As I rode I hoped this trip out to California to see my daughter would be uneventful. Every trip I made the previous year was met with misfortune. An ECM failure on my 2014 Vintage on my first trip west, a back tire blow-out on my 2010 Darkhorse on my ride out to Branson MO, another blow-out on my Vintage rear tire on my second trip out to California, and finally a lost saddlebag on my Vintage on the way home from the Michigan Upper Peninsula; after all those experiences, I was hoping for a little (ok a lot) less drama on this trip. Although misfortune usually makes for an interesting story, this year I was hoping for more tedious prose.

Interstate 70, from Denver to Grand Junction has to be one of the best and most scenic rides on the Interstate system. The freeway twists and turns as you rise out of Denver and pass by old mining towns such as Idaho Springs, Silver Plume, and Georgetown. Beyond Georgetown the route soars over the Loveland Pass through the Eisenhower Tunnel at 11,000 ft., and then over the 10,600 ft. Vail Pass just beyond the scenic city of Frisco. My ride over the passes was uncomfortably cool, but not too bad with temperatures only dipping into the upper 30's. There was no ice or snow to contend with, and I was happy about that.

Beyond the high altitude passes the ride took me through a series of small towns along the Eagle and then the Colorado rivers. An especially beautiful section was the ride through Glenwood Canyon, where thousand foot cliffs stand close to the freeway on each side and the road soars through the narrow canyon over an elevated freeway beside the Colorado River. It's an absolutely stunning ride.

I picked up more fuel in the town of Gypsum, and again in Grand Junction, and then set out across the dusty and empty expanse to the west. Anyone passing this way should get gas in Grand Junction, because the next readily available fuel stop is 100 miles away in Green River.

Green River Utah is a nice little town. If you've traveled at all, you've probably experienced towns that just have a nice feel to them; Green River is one of those. It's a comfortable place, an oasis in the dreary expanse where there are plentiful restaurants and hotels. The town has a feeling of peacefulness to it that's difficult to explain. If you've not visited the area before, try to plan your trip such that you spend the night there, and be sure to have dinner at the Tamarisk Restaurant that is situated right next to the fast flowing Green River, where the food is good and the view beautiful; on this trip I only had time for getting fuel in Green River before heading further west.

About 15 miles west of Green River I stopped at the San Rafael Swell viewing area that's right off the freeway. This is a really beautiful and desolate area, with the largest mountain structure looking like a rumpled blanket hung over the back of a chair. According to the information sign at the view area, the pass the Interstate now takes was once a canyon so narrow that wagons could only pass single file. It was also a source for Uranium and was mined extensively starting early in the last century up until the 1960's.

After enjoying the scenery for a while I got back on the freeway and rode over the pass and then through the increasingly scenic and lush mountains to the town of Salina UT. I found a Super 8 that was right off the freeway that was next to a gas station with a Denny's restaurant across the street. This is just the sort of place I look for when on the road because after riding all day, I prefer to let my bike (and butt) rest once I stop for the night.

After only 496 miles, this was a short day for me. I'm starting to feel my age, so my days of 800 to 1,000-mile day rides are behind me. It was nice to be free to stop here and there along the way to enjoy the scenery, and still feel fresh at the end of the day. That evening I ate dinner at the Denny's and walked around a bit before sitting outside my room with a relaxing cup of coffee enjoying the night air.

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Wednesday May 4, 2016. Salina UT to Fallon NV, 482 miles.

Shorter riding days and fewer miles allows the luxury of sleeping in a bit before hitting the road. After decades of rising early when on the road to roll as many miles as possible beneath me, and doing this day after day, it seems an almost sinful decadence to languish in my room and linger over that first cup (or two) of coffee in the morning. It's frigging awesome to be retired.

When I finally got my butt moving and my bike packed up, the day was already warming up and becoming comfortable. I purchased gas at the station next to my motel, then rode into Salina and turned left at the center of town to follow US-50 west.

The 27 mile ride from Salina to Scipio UT is an easy and peaceful one. The best part is riding along the shore of Scipio Lake, I enjoyed the sight of the peaceful lake with towering mountains lining the opposite shore. The countryside in this area is lush, green, and full of life. Scipio itself is a sparsely populated but pleasant little town. I always wonder what life is like for people living in towns such as Scipio; there's a gas station and motel near Interstate-15, but beyond that all that's done in that town is farming. I imagine life in places such as this is peaceful.

From Scipio US-50 temporarily joins up with I-15 for about 10 miles, then veers off and strikes out across mostly empty farmland for about 30 miles until coming into the town of Delta UT. I'm not sure where the delta is in Delta, as there isn't much water around. I've stayed the night in Delta several times on previous trips; it's a peaceful place at night and a good place to stay.

The significant thing about this town is that when traveling west on US-50, this is a must-stop for fuel because it is about 150 miles until reaching the next significant town of Ely NV. Delta UT is the east entrance to the Loneliest Highway in America. This section of US-50, which you can get "I survived" pins and bumper stickers for along the way, reaches out for 410 miles from Delta UT to Fallon NV. Gas stations are a rare commodity on this road, so plan accordingly when traveling this route. The Loneliest Highway in America is an unforgiving stretch or tarmac, and is definitely not a place to run out of fuel or break down.

After fueling up in Delta I headed west on US-50. There are a few scattered houses beyond Delta, and then the world just empties. In many places the road ahead, and behind, stretches unbending to the horizon. It's tempting to twist the throttle and unleash the power of this new Indian engine, letting the 111 cubic inches' roar and hurry over the desolate landscape.

There are two significant reasons not to do this; first, fuel mileage drops significantly at and above 80 mph, and with a whole lot of empty to get through it would be good to not run out of gas; second, police are known to patrol this highway, especially near towns, and the cost of a speeding ticket at more than 20 mph over the limit tempers my enthusiasm for speed.

Without a stereo for distraction I'm left to my own internal radio station for musical entertainment, and my own thoughts to keep my mind active. The highway itself is not demanding, however the risk of slipping into a mental fugue is something to be aware of. I keep my mind active by going over future writing projects, and wandering through old memories.

A little over halfway between Delta and Ely, right at the Utah/Nevada border, I noticed a relatively new gas station. At this fuel stop there's also some sort of overnight accommodation. As I rode by I thought this might be an overnight destination for some other trip west. Personally I would pack a telescope, and plan my stay to arrive on a moonless night. The accommodation is far away from any city or town, so the night sky would be very dark and clear which would make for excellent star viewing.

About 60 miles beyond the Nevada border I fueled up in Ely. I've stayed in Ely on many other trips west; it's a nice town with a Casino/hotel in the western downtown area where a lot of bikers stay, however I usually spend the night in a quieter place in the eastern part of town.

Beyond Ely there are only two desert towns to go through before reaching crowded civilization again, these are Eureka and Austin, and both have gas stations. I usually bypass Eureka and pick up fuel in Austin. It's about 150 miles to Austin, but as far as the Loneliest Highway goes, it's a nice ride that goes across some wide basins and through some low mountain passes.

I should put in here that the desert which the Loneliest Highway passes through, can often be a very cold place to ride; it depends on the time of year of course. In the middle of Summer, the heat is almost unbearable, but from the Fall season through Winter and well into Spring, it can be extremely cold. Also, no matter the time of year, this road should absolutely never be ridden at night. There's a lot of local wildlife that crosses the road; this is a hazard in the day time when visibility is good, at night it is extremely dangerous. If you hit an animal and go down, it could be many hours before another vehicle passes by. This highway would be a lonely place to die.

From Austin to Fallon NV is about 110 miles, and there is absolutely nothing between those two towns. No towns, and no gas stations at all. Once, years ago I skipped getting gas in Austin, and I was sweating bullets by the time I reached Fallon. When I got gas in Fallon on that trip, I put 5 gallons of fuel into my 5.1-gallon tank. That was a close one.

Every place has its own sort of beauty. The beauty on this section of US-50 is of the stark desolation sort, which is usually not my preferred type of beauty. I rode along long empty stretches of road where the only sign that I was moving at all was the scenery on either side of the road; the road itself stretched unchanging straight to the horizon, both before and behind my motorcycle. It's a weird sensation because it felt like I wasn't moving at all, only the landscape on each side slid by.

Finally, I arrived in Fallon, the western end of the Loneliest Highway. I wandered about a bit before finding a Super 8 / Casino in the center of town. Dinner that night was a burger and a milk shake at the Casino. Fallon itself is a dusty and dull town that holds no particular interest for me. It's a reasonable place to spend the night though.

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Thursday May 5, 2016. Fallon NV to Pleasanton CA, 280 miles.

It was an ominous morning; thunderstorms with a mix of rain and hail were expected along my route over Donner Pass and through the Sierra's. Generally speaking, riding through that sort of weather is not my favorite thing; my only hope was that maybe I could sneak through between storms.

With those hopes in the forefront of my mind I packed up, leaving my rain gear still in my saddlebag, and headed out. I rode out to Fernley NV and finally connected with I-80 West. Dark clouds loomed threateningly ahead as I rode along the freeway toward Reno. Once within Reno my optimism fell away when I saw what appeared to be a torrential downpour just a few miles ahead.

With a mental sigh of resignation, I pulled off the highway and found a motel parking lot where I could park while I donned my rain gear. Riding in rain and hail is not a great experience, it isn't the worst possible riding condition. I would say the most dangerous riding is in snow and ice, the next worse circumstance would be riding through loose gravel, so I'd put rain and hail at third from the bottom in possible motorcycle riding conditions. Not the worst, but pretty far from the best.

Soon after returning to the freeway the rain started to fall. It was a very cold rain with some hail mixed in, so it was especially unpleasant. The hard rain and hail stung my face, and a gusting cross wind added to the difficulty of riding up into the Sierra-Nevada mountains. The highway flooded with up to two inches of water in low lying sections along the side of the road and before and after bridges. I got behind a line of slower moving cars and followed their tire tracks as faster moving vehicles passed me on the left.

In a dry climate such as California riding in the rain can be especially hazardous. The rarity of wet weather allows a film of oil to develop on the pavement, and when it rains the oil raises and floats on top of the water, producing an extremely slippery surface. When I lived in California, I would usually commute to work in my truck for a few days right after it had rained to avoid that hazard.

Interstate 80 from Reno to Auburn is a scenic and pleasant ride. From Reno the freeway rises out of the dusty Nevada expanse into the lush meadows and pine trees that surround Lake Tahoe, then climbs further to crest the 7,000 ft. Donner Pass. Once on the western slope of the Sierra's the road descends through a series of easy tree lined curves beside fast flowing streams and rivers. It's a nice ride, especially for an Interstate.

I pulled off the freeway at Auburn for fuel and to visit the relatively new Indian dealer in that city. The parking lot at the dealer is a little steep to get in and out of, and there's some gravel on the incline to beware of, the dealer itself though is very nice. In particular, they have a nice selection of custom dealer shirts. I bought a shirt while I was there. I happily removed my rain gear while I was at the dealer.

The city of Auburn is built on hill covered land, and so on pretty much every road, you are riding either up or down. Normally this is a situation I rarely even think about, but the gravel that seemed to be everywhere made the declination/inclination of the roads something to be cautious about.

From Auburn to Sacramento is a long, straight, and boring ride. Routes like this are tolerable in the remote desert, but the combination of a tedious ride along with congested and hectic traffic, makes this stretch of road especially unpleasant.

The city of Sacramento itself is troublesome because of the high traffic volume, tangled freeways, poorly marked on and off ramps, and near constant road construction. I missed the off ramp for the I-80 outer loop and ended up riding through downtown; it was not a fun ride. Generally speaking, I don't like riding in large cities; they're all horrible in my view, but some like Sacramento are worse than others.

Finally, with Sacramento behind me I continued west on I-80 along the long straight road out to Vacaville, Fairfield, and Cordelia. My mother spent several years in Vacaville Prison back in the 1960's and early 1970's, and I think about that every time I pass through that town.

At Cordelia I turned south on Interstate 680 and rode south through the high winds that are usual for this section of highway down toward Benicia. At Benicia, the freeway crosses the Carquinez Strait on a relatively new bridge, the crossing is prone to cross winds but the view is nice. There used to be a naval 'graveyard' for old ships there; the ships are gone now and I don't know whatever happened to them.

Beyond the bridge the route became very familiar to me because I lived for nearly 20 years in the city of Pleasanton. The freeways have gotten wider, but even with more lanes available, the traffic is much worse.

I got off the freeway in Danville and headed San Ramon Valley Blvd. The street was filled with memories for me. Years ago my Karate school was nearby, and for Black Belt tests I used to take my students up into the hills and run them up and down the mountains. The area is much more built up now with houses and strip malls lining what was once a lonely two lane road. I wondered if it's even possible to hike in those hills anymore?

I continued south until I finally turned onto Dublin Blvd., a route the took under and over the I-680 / I-580 junction, and eventually I wandered into the parking lot for the Motel 6 where I would be staying for a few days. I checked in and unloaded my bike, then called my daughter to let her know I was in town. She told me she had a knitting class that night (she's turning into such a mother hen), and so I had the evening to relax and recuperate from my ride.

I rode over to an IHOP restaurant that's across the street from the Arlen Ness dealership and had dinner. Within the Indian Motorcycle community, Arlen Ness is a bit of a polarizing figure. Many don't appreciate the style of his custom motorcycles. My opinion is that Arlen is a pioneer of the motorcycle aftermarket business, and without him we wouldn't enjoy the plethora of goodies we can put on our bikes. I think Arlen Ness is an amazing builder and fabricator with his own distinctive style, which to me is commendable because he has blazed a trail and created a look that is uniquely his.

Dinner was good; pancakes for dinner is always a fine idea. Afterwards I returned to my room and made some phone calls to Ben and Eamon to see what they were up to. I set up a Saturday ride with Ben and my god-son, which was something to look forward to.

Eamon was just out of the hospital so I wouldn't be able to see him on this trip. I'm concerned about Eamon because he's had health issues for many years. We're all getting older, and in some cases our misspent youth is catching up to us. I find this to be a little disconcerting, and I'm worried about Eamon, whom I've known for over 30 years. I hope he gets well soon.

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Friday May 6, 2016. Pleasanton CA.

Originally my plans for this day were to check out the San Jose Indian dealer and ride out to the coast, and later have dinner with my daughter and her family that night. However, a sudden rainstorm put the kibosh on my agenda.

When I opened the curtains on my motel room that morning, I saw torrential rain pouring out of the sky and pounding the parking lot and my bike, and I thought, I don't think I'll be riding much today. Actually it didn't look like going anywhere on two wheels would be much fun, so I went back to bed and took a nap.

After a while I got restless and wanted to get out of my room. I also needed coffee; Motel 6 has free coffee in the morning, but on a good day the quality of it is mediocre, so I looked at Google Maps and saw there was a Starbucks nearby and decided a nice walk would do me good. The rain and backed off for the time being, and my walk through the business park and strip malls was a pleasant one.

There used to be a Denny's restaurant right across from the Motel 6, but unfortunately it had recently shut down. I remember going there with my wife before our kids (now in their 30's) were born, back then the road in front of the place had just two lanes, now it's a six lane parkway, and the land behind Denny's which once was farmland is now a business park. I thought of this as I walked by the squat and unimaginative bunker like structures that lined each side of the road. The only redeeming quality of the area was that there were plenty of trees on each side of the street. Generally speaking, I don't think progress is often progressive, because many times beauty, elegance, and thoughtful architecture gives way to low cost and stark utility.

When I arrived at Starbucks there was, of course, a line that was nearly out the door; this was the SF bay area after all and I suppose such things are to be expected. The cost of rent, insurance, labor, and so forth are so high in California that stores like Starbucks must have to do a million dollars in business each month just to break even and stay in business.

I got a croissant along with my coffee, then found a table and people watched as I enjoyed my breakfast. Cell phones are ubiquitous pretty much everywhere these days, but as is the Californian tendency, their addiction to technology was far overdone. Lots of Mexican was also being spoken, English is fast becoming a distant second language out there.

I spent the rest of that day wandering around the area near my motel during breaks in the storm. By the evening the rain had mostly stopped, and I rode over to my daughter's house for dinner with her family.

My daughter has married a really nice guy. He is a manager at a construction company, and before that worked as a carpenter. He's doing an amazing job fixing and improving their house, and he's also a terrific father to my grandkids.

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Saturday May 7, 2016. San Francisco Bay Area.

The weather had cleared a bit by the next morning, and I was hopeful that I could get out to see the Pacific. Even on good days, the weather out on the coast is iffy; it can be in the 80's just on the other side of the coastal range, and yet at the same time out on the PCH it can be cold and foggy.

As I rode around the southern end of the bay and up the peninsula to meet Ben and his son, Ben Jr. (my god son) at a coffee house in Menlo Park, the skies continued to look grim. The threatening clouds overhead darkened my aspirations of seeing the Pacific on this trip west.

Upon arriving at the Palo Alto Café, located in old town Menlo Park, I ordered a large cup of their brew. I really like a good cup of coffee at any time of day, however it an absolute necessity in the morning because functioning without it is simply not possible. The Palo Alto Café offers a strong but smooth blend that's very satisfying and enjoyable.

When Ben and Ben Jr. arrived it sounded like a raging thunderstorm. Both their bikes have V&H short-shots on them, and with age and riding the baffles within these pipes are pretty much non-existent. Compared to their bikes, my Indian Springfield with Rinehart mufflers was muted and sedate.

As we sat outside drinking coffee for a bit, Ben explained that the weather would be very wet out on the coast. Taking that into consideration we decided to stay east of the coastal range, and visit San Jose Indian then have some lunch at 'Zots'.

Zots (aka Rossotti's / The Alpine Inn), was established in the 1850's and has a long history in the SF bay area. It's long been a biker hangout; long enough that I remember my father taking me there when I was 3 or 4 years old. There's a long bar on the right as you walk in, and tables with deeply carved graffiti filling the rest of the room. Outside similarly carved picnic tables are scattered around a wide open area with a small, slow running creek at the rear. Zots is a good place to go for lunch if you're on two wheels in the bay area.

After lunch we all rode through the rain (good thing we didn't go to the coast) to Ben's house, where we drank more coffee and pretty much talked ourselves dry. Ben's wife Sarah was best friends with my wife in high school, and it was Sarah that matched us up. My wife and I have been together for 37 years now, so I guess the match up has worked out pretty well. We had a good long talk, then decided to go for dinner.

We went to Harry's Hofbrau in Redwood City, which is one of my favorite restaurants. Harry's is a cafeteria style restaurant where you can get fantastic comfort foot nearly drowned in gravy. It's a great place to eat, unless you're a vegetarian. After eating I returned to my motel in Pleasanton, where I crashed out for the night in a meat and gravy coma.

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Sunday May 8, 2016, Dublin CA

On my third day in California I rode to my daughter's house to spend the day with her family. The day was overcast, but it seemed that the worst of the weather had finished with us.

With her husband we took their children to the Elementary School their children will soon attend, and let them drive around in little electric cars. My Grandson is a typical boy, driving his car over curbs and crashing his car into trees, whereas my Granddaughter is a typical girl, driving carefully and trying in vain to keep up with her older brother.

The city of Dublin is in the process of installing a second water system that will dispense reclaimed / recycled water. This will alleviate some of the stress of the frequent droughts the area experiences. With this water people can water their lawns and keep the town green.

The afternoon was spent chatting with my daughter and playing with her children and their new little dog named Gizmo. Later in the day we all went out to the Athen's Burger for dinner. It was a good day.

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Monday May 9, 2016, San Gregorio CA

My daughter had taken a day off so we could all spend more time together. That morning I parked my Springfield at her house, and she drove her kids and I over CA-92 into Half Moon Bay, then south on the PCH to San Gregorio beach.

This is a beach my mother used to bring me to when I was the age my grandkids are now. It's a nice wide sandy beach where the San Gregorio Creek runs out into the Pacific. Tall sandstone cliffs walk along the shore of the ocean all along the San Mateo coastline, as the tide thunders and hisses on the sand below. The ocean there is not for swimming, not only is the water shockingly cold with an average temperature in the upper 40's to low 50's, but there is a strong rip-current that can be dangerous for those unaware of it. It's a wonderful place that holds a lot of fond memories for me.

My grandkids loved the beach, as all kids do. My granddaughter built a little sand castle and decorated it with sea shells, and my grandson ran amok playing tag with the waves and exploring the habitats that other people had created out of driftwood.

After the beach we all went to the San Gregorio General Store. The store originally opened in 1889, and if anyone is in the area I recommend a stop there. Live music can be had there on most weekends, there's also a bar, and many unique items to be purchased.

Later we drove back to Dublin where my son-in-law cooked barbeque shrimp and made tacos for us. My daughter had also made a from-scratch key lime pie, and holy-cow was it ever good. It was a great day, and a good visit, but it was time to head home.

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Tuesday May 10, 2016. Pleasanton CA to Wendover UT, 620 miles.

Last year's rides which netted three flat tires (two of which occurred at freeway speeds), and a lost saddlebag, had left me apprehensive regarding motorcycle riding. I've never really worried about breakdowns on lonely god-forsaken roads before, but I do now, and this is something I need to get over. On this ride back across Nevada I decided to be cautious and stay on frequently traveled routes. So I set out north on I-680 intent on using the interstate for most of my way home.

A consideration when riding over toll roads or bridges on a motorcycle is the ease (or lack of) of paying tolls. In other places where traffic is light I don't give this much thought, however when traffic is congested I do my best to pay my toll and quickly get on my way.

In the SF bay area, they have largely eliminated toll takers and have a system where all local cars have transponders via which the tolls are paid. The issue is that the toll collection system is not national, and transponders rarely work with systems out of their native area. So when someone far from home, such as myself, crosses a bridge with no human toll takers, how are we to pay the toll? I believe there is often a system in place that will read a license plate and send a bill to the owner, however there could be an added charge for this service.

On all of the bridges in the bay area, you don't have to pay to get arrive, but you do have to pay to leave. (There's got to be a joke in that situation somewhere.) In the days before my departure I did some on-line research and discovered that the Carquinez Bridge did have toll takers, so I had my $5 toll stuffed inside my riding glove, and the transaction that got me out of the bay area was made smoothly.

I connected with I-80 and made it easily through Sacramento and headed into the mountains. I picked up fuel in Dutch Flat then rode east through the mountains on the tree lined highway by clear running streams. Too soon I crested Donner Pass, after which the beauty around me faded away, as the freeway descended into Reno. The city passed by uneventfully, and after a few more miles I stopped for gas in Fernley NV.

With the best scenery behind me, I continued on the interstate, stopping for fuel Winnemucca, then Elko, and then finally stopping for the night at the Motel 6 in Wendover UT. The ride through Nevada had been cool but not terribly unpleasant, however riding in those temperatures has a cumulative affect that over time and miles can really chill a body. So when I arrived at my motel and was told they had turned off the heat anticipating the warmer season ahead, I was taken aback. Fortunately, the motel offered a portable heater to anyone who asked for one, which I did.

Dinner that night was at a Subway restaurant just down the road. As I've stated before in other stories, after riding all day, I rather not get on the bike again in order to get dinner. Walking after a long day in the saddle just feels darned good.

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Wednesday May 11, 2016. Wendover UT to New Castle CO, 475 miles.

Crossing the Great Salt Lake on cold days is a miserable ride, so I waited in my room drinking Motel 6 coffee wishing for the day to warm up a bit. As they say, "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride", but my wish for warmer temperatures never was granted, and soon I had get on the road and ride.

The highway from Wendover descends quickly to the Salt Lake basin, and then stretches mind numbingly straight to the horizon. It seems that much of my time on a motorcycle is spent in such circumstances. It is what it is, and so all one can do is shrug and get on with it. The sooner you start, the sooner it's behind you.

A few years ago I worked at Pikes Peak Harley Davidson, doing their on-line commerce, and there I met Dave Arnold. Dave travels to Bonneville pretty much every summer to compete for speed records on the salt flat, and he holds three world records there. I wish Dave would come to work for Indian, because maybe he could be the next Burt Munro. I think about Dave every time I cross the Great Salt Lake and wonder how he's doing.

I skirted around Salt Lake City and headed south on I-15 until I came to the US-6 junction at Spanish Fork where I exited the freeway and gassed up my bike. From there I took US-6 through a pleasant and scenic mountain valley which eventually emptied into the dusty lands of east Utah.

I picked up more fuel in Green River Utah then followed Interstate-70 into Colorado and through Grand Junction where I again filled up my tank. Beyond Grand Junction the route, as I've mentioned before, becomes a beautiful and very pleasant ride.

The day was beginning to cool when I pulled off the freeway at New Castle CO and got a room at the Econo Lodge there. I've stayed at this motel in the past and have recommended to others passing through the area. The rooms are quiet, pleasant, and comfortable, there's a free breakfast, the wifi is free, and restaurants (Chinese food and McDonald's) are a short walk away.

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Thursday May 12, 2016. New Castle CO to Monument CO, 220 miles.

As I ate breakfast at the Econo Lodge, I recalled seeing signs the day before warning of impending construction in Glenwood Canyon. There was nothing said about it on the local television station, but I remembered the signs saying there could be long delays, so I decided to head out early.

I packed up and rode my Springfield over to the gas station next door to my motel to fuel up. Once all that was done I rode out and headed for the freeway, but before I got to the on-ramp my TPMS warning light came on. Nightmares flooded my brain of blowouts and flat tires of the year before. Cursing I turned around and returned to the gas station.

It was one of those pay for air pressure machines, so I went inside to get change and moved my bike around so I could access the front tire nozzle. The tire was about two pounds under pressure (44 psi instead of 46 psi) so I topped it off thinking that maybe the problem was with the rear tire. With the pressure machine still running, I rolled my bike to and fro until I had access to the rear nozzle. That tire was also about two pounds under pressure (39 psi instead of 41 psi), so I topped it off.

So why did I get a TPMS warning? Since the tire pressures were correct, I thought the problem was probably with the TPMS itself. With a sigh of resignation and a feeling of trepidation, I fired up my bike and headed for the freeway again. On the way I noticed that my TPMS light was NOT illuminated, and I wondered why two pounds of pressure would make a difference?

The rest of my route home passed without incident. Glenwood Canyon was a beautiful as ever, and the mountain passes were pretty darned cold. By the time I stopped for fuel in Idaho Springs I had decided that the TPMS warning was an anomaly. My problem with this is that an unreliable warning system is possibly worse than having no warning system at all; it's like having a dog that barks at everything, so when someone is actually breaking into your house you pay no attention to your barking dog.

When I finally descended into Denver it was getting pretty warm. I continued on though without stopping and kept to the freeway all the way home.

It had been a good trip, and a proper shakedown cruise of my Indian Springfield. Other than the erroneous TPMS warnings, the bike performed flawlessly. My Springfield is the perfect touring motorcycle for me.

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 + Open : 2016: Durango

Iron Indian Reunion in the Rockies, 2016

Note:

I am not a spokesman for the Iron Indian Riders Association (aka IIRA), nor am I a member of the Tribal Council or an officer in any of the local Tribes. I am only a member of the IIRA and of the Lone Wolf Tribe. Nothing I say herein reflects the position or opinion of the IIRA, or of any of the local Tribes. All that's here is my experience regarding the 2016 IIRA Reunion in the Rockies event.

"There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven't yet met."
      - William Butler Yeats

The Indian Riders at Indian Point rally.

I hate politics; I really do. I don't like the cliques, the insider back stabbing, and the way that people not part of the insider cool-kid group are often ostracized. This sort of thing is ugly, stupid, runs counter to building a unified community and expansion of the organization. I find it especially idiotic when, because of a personal dispute between individuals we are forced to decide who to support, but that's what happened to me last year at the Indian Riders at Indian Point rally (aka IRIP) in Branson MO.

For IRIP 2015 I stayed at the Shady Acre Motel outside Branson MO., and every morning I would make the 3 mile ride to Indian Point to meet up with other Indian riders. I went on a few rides and generally had a good time meeting and chatting with fellow Indian Motorcycle riders; but those pleasant times came to a fast end the last night I was there, when the manager of the Indian Point resort asked me if I wanted to see his museum.

Initially I thought this would be a display of Indian Motorcycle memorabilia, however I was shocked to find that his 'museum' consisted of a diorama display of dolls of the members of the band Kiss, which was pretty uninteresting in my view. However, the manager's intentions quickly became clear once he launched into a tirade about the Iron Indian Riders and IRIP.

First he declared that IRIP was never an IIRA event; I found this amusing because I had just passed many banners from past IRIP events on the way to his office, and each of those banners prominently displayed the IIRA logo. Next, the manager launched into a personal attack of HarleyNot, and wanted me to look at a bunch of emails they had exchanged. He kept repeating that I should read the emails, but I told him that I wasn't interested in doing that.

The manager complained bitterly about the IIRA being a for-profit organization, rather than a non-profit. It took the wind out of his arguments when I said I didn't care if the IIRA was a for-profit organization. I don't think the members of Tribal Council is getting rich on those $15 membership fees and reasonably priced merchandise. I told the manager that I personally thought the value the IIRA offered was outstanding, and whether the organization was a profit or non-profit made absolutely no difference to me. I told him that despite the fervor of his arguments, I simply did not care, and I refused to argue the issue with him any further.

I found the entire encounter unpleasant, and it really soured me on attending any future IRIP events. I was also astounded by his lack of business acumen; alienating a large group of customers is just a bad idea for any business.

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Seeking another venue.

Apparently several others had similar encounters at IRIP, and they also swore off returning to any future events there. Soon after I returned home, on-line conversations started up about finding an alternative to Branson and IRIP. Many people pushed the idea of a rally in Durango because that location has spectacular riding, and is located such that it would draw riders from both the west coast and central plains.

My reply to these inquiries was that there are many areas within Colorado which would be terrific venues for an Iron Indian function. Still though, the consensus among the people I spoke with remained that Durango would be the first choice for a future event. Since I live in Colorado I volunteered to scout out the area for accommodations.

Weather is a strong consideration regarding the dates for a Colorado IIRA event. April through May, and October through November are unpredictable, with blizzards at that time of year being fairly common; July and August are monsoon season in Colorado and so tend to be wet months. These considerations left June or September for us to choose from, but as Durango plays host to the Four Corners Rally in September, June seemed to be the best choice.

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Visiting Durango.

In early June of 2015 I set out for California. My route would take me first to Durango, then out across the desert to Kanab UT, then on to Rachel NV, and then into the San Francisco Bay Area where I would visit my daughter and her family. Before leaving I had researched the Durango area, searching for appropriate lodging, and had narrowed down my choice to either the Iron Horse Inn, a large accommodation but some distance from town, and the Knights Inn which was smaller, but closer to local restaurants. My intuition was that the Iron Horse Inn would be a best choice, and had decided to stay there, but also wanted to look over other hotels in the area.

Ken Ross, who is also an IIRA member, was to travel with me as far as Rachel, but unfortunately he had some emergency dental issues come up at the last minute, and so I went solo. I rode into Durango from the north along US-550, the Million Dollar Highway. I had been over this road many years ago and had forgotten how nice of a ride it was. I felt certain that a Durango rally would go over well with the IIRA members.

When I pulled in at the Iron Horse Inn I was surprised at the size of the place. Most of the rooms have an upper story loft with a second bed, and my room had a refrigerator and microwave as well. The Inn itself could use some refurbishing, but as a whole it seemed to be a very good venue for a rally and the cost of lodging there was reasonable.

That afternoon I took many pictures of the Inn, the parking lot, the views, and my room, and posted them on-line for IIRA members to see. The responses I received that evening were enough for me to feel confident in moving forward.

Before leaving the next day I took the risk of booking a block of 10 rooms for the Iron Indian get together. Honestly I thought it would be a push to get 10 Iron Indian members to book rooms, and because I would be responsible for paying for the rooms that did not get rented out, I was a bit nervous. The person at the reception desk assured me that I could cancel any unused rooms a month before the event and escape having to pay for them.

I honestly did not expect to rent out all 10 rooms because I was really unsure of the popularity of the idea. People on-line sounded enthusiastic, but I was uncertain that fervor would translate into a large crowd showing up. I would have been completely happy if only 10 people had attended. As it turned out, I was in for a huge surprise.

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Promotion via Indian Roads.

After returning from California I set about promoting the event, which I was now calling the Iron Indian Reunion in the Rockies. I liked using the word 'Reunion' instead of 'Rally' because the word reunion relates more to family, and that's the general feel of the Iron Indians.

I created a web page about the event and posted it on the Indian Roads website (IndianRoads.net). After that I just sort of let it go; I figured some people would book, but most wouldn't, and in April or so I would call up the Iron Horse Inn and cancel the rooms that hadn't been booked.

Somewhere around December 2015 I became curious and called the Iron Horse Inn to check on the reservations. To my surprise I was told that 22 rooms had been booked; it seemed that I would not have to worry about canceling unused rooms.

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Event shirts.

It was somewhere around April that someone asked about event shirts. Honestly I had not even thought about anything like that. Fortunately, Custom Ink, a low volume custom t-shirt vendor, advertises a lot on the television out here, so I knew where to go to get shirts made. Before ordering however I needed to see how many people wanted shirts, and before I could place those orders I needed to know how much the shirts would cost.

First there was the design, I wanted something with mountains because the best rides in Durango (my opinion of course) are over the mountain passes. I also needed to incorporate the IIRA logo, which I needed to get permission to use. HarleyNot gave permission, but I had to make absolute certain that Custom Ink would not move the IIRA logo into their image library, thereby allowing someone not associated with our organization to make shirts. I did all that and created a design, and posted pictures on the IIRA and Indian Community forums, and asked people if they were interested.

People started letting me know they were interested. Just being interested though does not directly translate into an order. However, from that list of people who said they wanted to purchase a shirt I was able to get an idea of the quantity of shirts to order, and with that quantity I was able to determine an approximate price.

I upped the price to $20 a shirt (no matter the size) to cover the possibility of people wanting their shirts shipped to them. This needed to be as simple a process as possible, so no matter the size, the shirts were the same price, and $20 was as inexpensive as I could go and still not run into the red if fewer actual orders materialized, or if there were a lot of people wanting their shirts sent to them via mail.

I didn't want to gamble by ordering shirts without first getting payment. So I asked everyone to pay me via PayPal for their shirts before placing the order. Most people who had expressed interest initially made their payment, but some didn't so I was glad I handled this process in the way I did. After I had the money for the shirts in hand, I placed the order.

Custom Ink did a great job with the shirts, and delivered everything to me within two weeks of the placement of my order. I bagged everyone's order independently, and everything was set. As it turned out the size of the order would have been too big for me to carry on my motorcycle, but fortunately my wife was able to attend the Reunion, and she carried everyone's shirt in her car.

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Heading out to Durango.

On the morning of June 10, my wife and I packed everything up, put our two dogs in her car and headed off to the dog borders. Our Norwegian Elk Hound Ursula really doesn't like to be away from home, but she tolerates it when she must. All the noise of barking dogs' kind of freaked her out, but we knew she would get used to it as she has in the past. That done we were on our way.

We had opted for a direct route via Walsenburg and through the San Luis Valley via US-160. This is a tedious ride, but not unpleasant. I've ridden through torrential deluges in the San Luis Valley before, however on this trip the weather was perfect.

The ride over Wolf Creek Pass and down into Pagosa Springs was especially enjoyable. Everyplace in the world has its own special kind of beauty, however my preference are places where there is an abundance of water and lush vegetation. The air was cool and moist on my skin, the scenery wonderful, and the traffic light, in short it was a perfect ride.

As we neared Durango, I have to admit to feelings of trepidation. Would the Reunion be a success? Would things go wrong, and cause people to get angry with me? At that time, it seemed as if there were a million things that could make the Reunion fall apart, and only a few possible outcomes where it all went well. As it turned out I was far too paranoid and pessimistic.

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Arrival.

We turned north onto US-550 at Durango, passed through the in-town traffic, and then turned into the Iron Horse Inn. As I rounded the last curve into the parking lot I pretty much went into shock. My original hope was that 10 Iron Indians would attend the Reunion, but by this time though I knew that goal had been exceeded because 22 rooms had been booked. As I rode around that last corner I was greeted by a sea of Indian motorcycles and crowds of people wearing Iron Indian patches and gear.

Instead of 10 or 20 Iron Indian members, there seemed to be about 80 people in attendance. To this day I remain confused and dumbfounded by how many people traveled all the way to Colorado to be at the Reunion. I recall that first evening HarleyNot asked me, why aren't you smiling more? I told him that I just couldn't believe how many people were there.

I am humbled by all those who traveled hundreds, even thousands of miles to attend. All I can really say to those that came is, thank you, and that I feel privileged to know you and be part of an organization that has such wonderful people as members. I really cannot overstate the honor those that attended bestowed upon me. Thank you.

We checked in then went around to the 'track side' of the Inn and parked in front of our room. My wife and I were very happy with our room, but I need to mention for those that did not attend that the Iron Horse Inn is not a five-star motel, instead it's more of a three-star place. Personally speaking, I'm fine with that level because I'm not a five-star person. I also should add that a 5-star establishment comes with a 5-star price, and I chose the Iron Horse Inn because, first it was a nice place, and second because it was affordable. I think that often people who plan events such as this, book fancy-pants places, and in so doing price a lot of people out of attending.

After unpacking my bike and my wife's car, I went out to wander around and meet people. One of the first people I met was DK (aka dk007) and his wife Robin. My wife came by after a bit and chatted with Robin while DK and I chewed the fat. After a bit we all decided to go to dinner together at a Mexican restaurant about a mile back toward Durango from the Inn.

DK drove us all down to Fiesta Mexicana in his pickup truck. The restaurant wasn't especially crowded and we got a nice table next to the window. Robin said she wanted a Margarita, and even though I rarely drink I couldn't resist. My Margarita tasted great, and was the perfect beverage to end a day's ride.

Conversation over dinner never lagged, and my wife and Robin quickly discovered that they both were quilters, so they had plenty to talk about. Dinner wad good, but the company was better. It was a strange sensation to meet someone in person for the first time, and yet feel so in sync with them.

I don't recall much of the rest of the evening because, well, I had a Margarita. As I think back to that night however what I remember was simply a feeling of friendship.

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Silverton.

The Iron Horse Inn offers free breakfast (they also have a laundry). My wife and I walked over to the breakfast room, bringing with us a batch of Reunion shirts, and handed them out to people who ordered them as we enjoyed our first meal of the day. In a pause between giving out shirts I asked my wife, "Where do you want to ride today? Without hesitation she answered, "How about Silverton?" I love days that start that way.

While we were getting ready Ken Ross and Ron Brown said they wanted to go. So we all geared up, got ready, and finally pulled out at about 11am.

The ride to Silverton is an easy 45-minute ride that crosses over Coal Bank and Molas passes, both of which are over 10,000-feet in elevation. The view from each pass is spectacular and worthy of a stop for photos and a look around. The town of Silverton is a nice place to walk around, have a drink, eat lunch, and a good place for my wife to shop.

The town sits at the southern end of the Silverton Caldera, the interior of a collapsed volcano that erupted 27 million years ago. This area, and all of Colorado is very rich in gold, silver, and gemstones. More gold was taken out of Colorado than from California and Alaska combined. Silverton, obviously was a mining town, with both gold and silver found there. The mines in the area operated from the late 1800's up until the early 1990's. These days the town is just a tourist destination.

The road up to Silverton is an easy one until you near Coal Bank Pass, where the road narrows and the turns tighten as you climb the mountain to the pass. Beyond Coal Bank Pass the road remains tight and interesting, but not especially demanding or difficult, however it's never a good idea to underestimate the tricks an unexplored road can throw at you. As my father used to say, "you'd better respect the road, or it will smack the shit out of you."

It was cooler over the passes than my wife expected, and so once we reached Silverton she went on a mission to purchase a sweater. Ken, Ron, and myself wandered through the town vaguely following my wife as she went in and out of the shops. Eventually she hunted down a sweater to her liking and we could finally take a break for lunch.

We ate pizza at a brewery on Greene St., the main road through town. The pizza was very good, and the building was one of those old western buildings with creaky floors and with what appeared to be the old original tin ceiling.

After lunch we saw that the skies were getting grim; thunderstorms over the mountains are common in summer, and so this was not entirely unexpected. With that in mind we all decided to head back to the Iron Horse before the weather became too unpleasant.

On the way out we had stopped and taken a break at Coal Bank Pass, and so on the way back we pulled off at Molas Pass. At the turn off for the pass there's a long paved loop that offers really an excellent place to take group pictures, or just a nice vanity shot of your bike against Showdon Peak, North Twilight Peak, and West Needle Mountain, all standing hard and clear against the sky in the distance.

That night we all ate steak and chicken with a wonderful oriental style salad, with fudge for dessert, out on the concrete pad next to the Inn. I spoke with as many people as I could, but I found it difficult to put a person's name and face together with the handle they use on-line. For next year, I may create a spreadsheet to clear up my confusion.

My wife and I had many fun and interesting conversations with many people there. I again found myself in a state of shock regarding how many people were there. I still have trouble getting my head around it.

After a while my wife headed back to our room to relax, and I stayed to continue meeting and talking to people. I was having a great time. A group of us had coalesced around the fire pit, and as the alcohol was flowing freely the evening was becoming increasingly lively.

At this point Dan Dalton asked me if I was going to stay around for a while; I wasn't sure what to make of that but I said, yes I was. He disappeared then soon came back and gave me two silver dollar coins. My God, I thought, what an incredible gift. I was completely taken aback by Dan's generosity and kindness. Again I found myself shocked into near speechlessness. I don't recall what I said to Dan at that time, but I'm certain it was inadequate to the appreciation I felt. Even now, as I write this I find it difficult to believe that someone would be so kind. Thank you Dan.

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Photo shoot.

After breakfast at the Iron Horse, engines started roaring and bikes began lining up for a group motorcycle photograph. We started with one line, but it quickly became obvious that a single line of motorcycles would be too long to photograph even with a wide angle lens. In the end, we had 55 Indian Motorcycles in two rows, and it still was a tight fit.

Next year I'd like to see 100 Iron Indian motorcycles in the photograph. Wouldn't that be cool?

After the photo shoot it was time for my wife to leave, and I was left to fend for myself.

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Silverton #2

HarleyNot, Hasbin, The Dalton Gang, Tahoe Chief, Gary, Phil the Griz, and several others asked me to lead a ride out to Silverton. They had all been there for a few days already, but had only visited Four Corners, and Mesa Verde; so they hadn't seen the mountains yet. I think the mountains are the best part of the Durango area, so it was obvious that this needed to get done.

I feel it's always a good idea to synchronize everyone's fuel gages before heading off on a group ride, so after about 6 miles following US-550 north, we pulled off at a Conoco station. Once everyone was fueled up we headed out toward the mountains.

The first part of the ride was easy, and it would have been tempting to take it fast. However, if you ride fast, you miss the scenery. There's also the issue of different riders being comfortable at differing speeds. Whenever I lead I ride I make it a point to tell everyone that I am going to ride slow, and if they want to go fast they should head out first, and the rest of us will meet them at our destination.

I also keep an eye on those following me, and adjust my speed accordingly; I want to keep the group together, and avoid cars passing and merging in. Finding that right speed that isn't either too fast or too slow can be tricky. This was a group of very experienced riders though, so we soon fell into a comfortable riding rhythm.

The mountain air cooled, and the scenery rose in splendor as we gained in elevation. Pine trees gathered at the sides of the road as we followed the increasingly windy road in and out of canyons, and along valleys with a solid rock wall on one side of us, and a sheer drop off on the other.

We stopped at Coal Bank Pass for photographs and just to gather together to admire our surroundings. Soon though we were all anxious to see what next the road would give us, and so we rode on.

Beyond Molas Pass we encountered some road work, and while there were no delays, the road was in the process of receiving a chip seal treatment and that made the riding a bit treacherous. Everyone in our group was an experienced rider, and so knew to keep to the car tire paths which were relatively free of debris, and so no one had any problems.

Once in Silverton, we parked together on Greene Street and walked into town. Having eaten pizza there just the day before, I wasn't in the mood to do it again. Some did want pizza however, and so our group broke in two, with some eating at Handlebars Restaurant, and the rest eating pizza.

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Train picture.

After lunch we all got together again and rode our bikes into the main part of town. The steam train from Durango had just arrived, and by the time we got there most of the crowd had dispersed. We were able to park our bikes right along the side of the train. As we hurriedly took pictures, Dan Dalton bribed the train Engineer to wait a bit longer so we could capture the moment. The pictures turned out really well.

After the photo-op most of our group wanted to continue on over the Million Dollar Highway to Ouray. So leaving some of our number behind, we set out, continuing north on US-550.

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On to Ouray.

Before we left the Iron Horse that morning I had heard that there was dangerous construction between Silverton and Ouray. As it turned out, it was not big deal at all. We waited only a few minutes in the construction traffic, then had to ride on a short well packed gravel section of road, and that was all there was to it.

We rode without incident over the 11,000-foot elevation Red Mountain Pass, then traversed the ridiculous switchbacks down the other side. We passed by old mining sites, and through the ghost town of Ironton. We also saw deer beside the road, but fortunately they just stood and watched the spectacle of a heard of Indian Motorcycles passing by.

About a mile or so north of Ironton we rode through a narrow canyon. The road there was narrow, with a sheer rock face on the east side, and on the other side there was no guard rail or shoulder, just a sheer drop off to the Umcompahgre River flowing several hundred feet below. I've taken this road before, at a time deeper into summer, when dodging 40-foot RV's invading my lane from the opposite direction made the ride exciting.

Once the canyon ride was behind us, we parked our bikes on Main Street in Ouray, and walked into town.

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Top floor at the brewery.

Ouray is a spectacularly scenic town with many historic buildings; waterfalls plunge from the granite cliffs that surround it, creating an almost fairy tale atmosphere. Naturally, considering our crew, we soon found a brewery.

As a group we climbed to the balcony at the top of the Ouray Brewery. Pitchers of beer were ordered, and I had a coke. The view of the town was great from the top floor and we all had a good time. One of our members tried to smuggle out a souvenir pint glass, but this was captured on the security cameras, and so a glass that if purchased honestly would have cost $5, ended up costing HarleyNot $9. Crime can be costly.

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Return to Silverton.

Bob Dalton, who is an incredible photographer, wanted to ride ahead to capture our group as we rode together up the mountain. So we gave him about a five-minute head start, and then we were on our way.

We passed by Bob, and then stopped just north of Red Mountain Pass for another group photo. It was a beautiful location, with an aspen grove behind us and jagged gray snow covered peaks in the distance. Once everyone's cameras were satisfied, we continued south on US-550.

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A Colorado Baptism.

Red Mountain pass again was no problem, but as we entered the construction zone it started to rain. It was a cold rain, and so I thought we had some interesting weather ahead of us.

Throughout the entire year, rain, hail, and snow are always possible in the upper elevations. Furthermore, starting from late June into mid-August, is monsoon season in Colorado. During my first summer in Colorado I was caught with no jacket in a severe hail storm, and ended up with welts on my bear arms. The first time bikers encounter weather such as this, especially when unprepared, it is considered a Colorado baptism.

The rain continued to increase as we continued riding. This was open country, with no place to take shelter, so the only thing we could do was to keep going. The rain or hail (or sometimes snow) that comes out of a thunder storm is only right under the cloud, so the longer you stay under the cloud the more punishment you will endure.

It started to hail hard, with pea sized balls of ice hitting our open faces and arms. Most bothersome for me was getting hit on the lip by a high speed chunk of hail. I slowed and ducked my head letting my helmet take the brunt of the abuse. In my mirrors I saw that those behind me were slowing also, and after rounding the switchback at Mill Creek I noticed that those following were lagging further and further behind.

I could see the edge of the hail storm about a mile, maybe two, ahead, and so I cautiously continued, knowing that once the storm cleared my companions would catch up. After clearing the storm, I rode about another half mile and pulled off the side of the road, to wait for the group to join me.

The best way to get through adversity of any kind, be it personal tragedy, pain, suffering, or a hail storm is to keep going. Wanting to go back, hunkering down, cowering under the onslaught, none of that works; all it does is prolong the agony.

When I saw the line of Indian Motorcycles coming, I pulled out and resumed my lead position. A few miles further south, we pulled off the highway for fuel in Silverton. By then I was laughing, barely able to constrain myself. There's something peculiar that happens after surviving hardships such as this, I become elated. I laugh and have an urge to bounce around, almost dancing. In moments like this I'm on top of the world.

Not everyone shares in, or much enjoys my enthusiasm though, in fact many people are extremely annoyed with me in times such at that. All there is to be said in my defense, is that we made it, no one was seriously hurt, and our bikes were not dented or damaged. We were all soaked to the skin, but I promised that by the time we arrived back at the Iron Horse Inn, we would all be dry.

While everyone was fueling up, I went around and congratulated everyone on their Colorado Baptism. You're all now one of us, and can honestly say you're a Colorado Biker.

While at the gas station we were joined by three Harley riders who wanted to follow us back to Durango. Because of this I skipped stopping at Molas Pass, I'll save that for next year.

As promised, when we arrived back at the Iron Horse we were all dry as a bone.

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IIRA Dinner.

I parked my bike back at my room and cleaned up a bit, then called my wife to see if she made it home ok. With all well on the home front, I left my room and wandered out to the concrete area where we had all been gathering.

As an aside, the Iron Horse Inn has promised us a large gazebo, a fire pit, and lighting for next year's Reunion. Next year, this event will be even better.

After chatting with the Daltons, Tahoe Chief, and HarleyNot it was decided that we would all go out to dinner. Mrs. HarleyNot wanted Mexican food and had selected a place called Zia Taqueria that was just down the road. The Daltons, Tahoe Chief, and I rode out early to check the place out.

When we arrived at Zia Taqueria, we discovered the restaurant was pretty small, and was totally booked up. By this time Mr. & Mrs. HarleyNot showed up, and it was decided to head down the road further to Fiesta Mexicana, the same restaurant where my wife and I went with DK and his wife on our first night in Durango.

When we all had arrived at Fiesta Mexicana, Mr. & Mrs. HarleyNot emerged from their truck accompanied by a song I didn't recognize. Apparently it was "their song", and they danced around the parking lot together while the rest of us watched and enjoyed the show.

Once we were seated in the restaurant and our orders taken, the tequila shots began. Recalling the margarita that I had enjoyed the first night in Durango, I had ordered another on this night. I normally don't drink, and when I do I have to keep it to ONE drink otherwise things quickly get out of hand. So I sat and enjoyed my dinner while sipping my margarita, and watched the antics of those around me. It was a fantastic evening, and the perfect ending to a great day.

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Down time.

Most of the Iron Indians left the following morning, and while the Reunion was an incredible experience, and I really enjoyed meeting everyone, I needed some down time. I had helped with this event, finding the Inn and getting the t-shirts, and I had worried relentlessly that things would go wrong.

It's a personal failing that I tend to over-think things and end up worrying too much. I know in my head that after the trigger is pulled there's nothing that can be done, that whatever happens, happens; I still worry though.

Ken Ross wanted me to ride to Mesa Verde with him on our last day in Durango, and it was tempting. I haven't been to Mesa Verde in probably 25 years, and it would be good to go back and see it again, but I could feel my tension starting to evaporate, and knew that what my body wanted was to spend the day relaxing and taking naps; so that's what I did. I'm such an old fart sometimes.

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Leaving.

On the last morning at the Iron Horse, the breakfast room seemed empty and overly quiet. Only a hand full of Iron Indians were still at the Inn, and so after breakfast we all met together, took a few pictures, and then said goodbye.

Ken Ross lives about 40 miles north of where I live, and so we had decided to ride most of the way back together. I don't ride with Ken and the few other Iron Indian brethren that live nearby as much as I should. At home, life conspires against care free times, because I'm either busy volunteering at a local animal rescue shelter, learning and occasionally teaching Karate at a local school, or working on various writing projects for Indian Roads. I'm busier now that I'm retired than I ever was during my working career.

Ken and I gassed up in Durango, then got on US-160 and headed east. The ride from Durango to Pagosa Springs is a pleasant one; as the road climbs in elevation, the air cools and becomes moist, and pine trees frequently crowd at the edge of the road. The air smells sweet amidst the forest, and the cool wind rolls and buffets as it flows around me as I ride; it's an intoxicating experience.

We rode through Pagosa Springs, then headed up into the mountains. Wolf Creek Pass is only about a 90-mile one way ride from the Iron Horse Inn, and is well worth a visit. We stopped for a few photographs at the top of the mountain, and Ken also placed an Iron Indian sticker on the map at turn out.

Continuing on down the mountain, then out into the San Luis Valley, we finally stopped for fuel in the town of Monte Vista. We paused there to drink coffee, then turned north on US-285 toward the town of Saguache, then on over Marshall Pass and stopped in the town of Poncha Springs for lunch.

Ken found a good BBQ place for us to eat in Poncha Springs; he had the ribs and I had a pulled pork sandwich. The restaurant was basically a food truck with an enclosed awning attached. The food was excellent, and the people running the place were nice.

After lunch we continued to follow US-285 and eventually picked up fuel again near Buena Vista. At that point we said good bye, with me taking US-24 into Colorado Springs and him following US-285 toward Denver.

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It's not the place, it's the people.

The Reunion turned out much better than I had hoped. Certainly a lot more people showed up than I expected, and the comments I got from everyone were all positive. As Fireman Dave said; It's not the place, it's the people, and that is certainly true. It was the people, my Iron Indian brothers and sisters, that made the Reunion a success. Nothing I did made that happen, all of the joy and good times had everything to do with the people. So I say "THANK YOU for making this a success" to everyone that was there.

Still though, as far as places go, Durango was pretty good. Next year the Reunion will again be held in Durango on June 15-19 2017. The Iron Horse Inn has promised that they will have a very large gazebo built out on that concrete area, and there will also be a fire pit. I hope that musically inclined Iron Indians will bring their instruments, and we can all enjoy late night music while sitting around the fire together.

Friends are the family we choose. I hope to see everyone in Durango again next year.
Thanks again to all that attended.

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