Wednesday, April 30, 2008
I was Jonesing for BMW motorcycle dealership fix today and, since the weather was good and I had nothing else pressing on my agenda, I decided to ride to Memphis to check out BMW Motorcycles of Memphis.
Riding down U.S. 63 in bright sunshine and a stiff southeasterly crosswind, I pictured a pleasant oasis of BMW motorcycle kultur where riders like myself pass the hours regaling each other with trip stories or discussing plans for summer rides. Something like the late, lamented Revard BMW Motorcycles in Indianapolis where everyone who walked through the door was a friend, whether you'd met them before or not.
I also envisioned a spacious, elegant showroom with all of the latest BMW models and a wall full of BMW riding apparel - maybe something like Foothills BMW in suburban Denver, which was the last BMW dealership I've been in (and that was last August).
So I rolled down I-55 to I-40 and followed it across the Mississippi (which is back within its banks after the spring floods), through downtown Memphis and on to Exit 10. A quick jog up Covington Pike and a right onto Pleasant Valley Road and I started searching for the BMW roundel. I finally spotted it up ahead on the left, playing second fiddle to a Yamaha sign on a tall post in front of a squat nondescript building with the tiniest of parking strips out front. Multi-brand dealerships where the other brand has top billing are usually bad news when it comes to BMW shops, and this was no exception. I noticed a "No Loitering" sign prominently displayed in the front window (see red circle in photo) and wondered if it meant this is a rough neighborhood or if the management is actively trying to discourage customers from socializing in the parking lot. Not a good business model for a BMW shop where the ambiance should promote socializing.
My heart sank when I walked inside. Aside from five or six new BMWs arrayed across the front of the store, it was wall-to-wall Japanese bikes. Searching the shelves of lubricants and other chemicals, I finally found the 10W50 BMW motor oil and grabbed a quart. The only BMW apparel in evidence was a new style of baseball cap. I bought a cap and the oil and headed for the door. Now I understand what Charlie meant when he said all of the BMW riders in Northeast Arkansas go to the dealer in Little Rock or, in the case of airheads, up to Grass Roots BMW at Cape Girardeau, Mo.
I can't imagine ever going back to the Memphis shop.
But I got a nice day ride out of it and averaged 36.094 mpg.
Speaking of old family photos, this is my Uncle John Dietz - my mother's younger brother. He was fatally injured in September, 1938, when he fell from this pony, caught his foot in the stirrup and was dragged. He suffered head injuries and died on Sept. 24, 1938 at the age of 18.
His mother, Emma Dietz, died six days later while a patient at Central State Hospital in Indianapolis where she was being treated for some kind of mental illness. I suppose I should request the records someday just to see what actually happened.
Here's a photo of her as a young woman.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Rooting through some old photos, I found this delightful shot of my grandmother Emma Dietz and her chickens on her farm near Deer Creek in Carroll County, Indiana, sometime in the 1930s.
One of the reasons we bought this house in the woods was the belief that the wooded nature of the lot meant lots of bare ground and only sparse patches of grass. That's how it looked when we did the deal last fall. At least that's how we thought it looked.
Recently, though, I've been alarmed to see the grass is thriving and growing like crazy. Yesterday was the second time I've mowed this spring. It was a pleasant 62 degrees and the air was dry, so it amounted to about an hour of useful exercise to follow our self-propelled mower around.
That's my kind of lawn mowing - a self-propelled walk-behind lawn mower. I've never owned a riding mower, never even operated one. I always thought you had to have a huge lot to justify the expense. Otherwise, it was just laziness and wasteful.
But I have a growing awareness lately that this 1.23-acre lot is the biggest chunk of real estate I've ever had to mow - more than twice the size of our lot in Thorntown, Ind. - and we're heading into some very warm weather.
The fact that our part of Arkansas runs about 10 degrees warmer than our Indiana home was delightful last winter, but the prospect of prolonged periods in the 90s and 100s makes a walk-behind lawn mower look like a torture device.
And it's not lost on me that the previous owner of our place had a riding mower in the garage when we got our first walk-through of the house. And our neighbors, all of whom have comparable-sized lots, have riding mowers.
So that's probably where our IRS rebate check will go when it shows up in the next few weeks. I've been eyeing and pricing riding mowers every time we go to the Home Depot or Lowe's for our other hardware, tool and lawn needs.
I recall seeing a booth for the Arkansas Lawn Mower Racing Association at a sports expo here earlier this year and noting that there is a member business just down the road here in Brookland.
Who knows? This riding mower thing could get completely out of hand...
Despite an 18 percent price increase, we paid $61.94 less to operate our vehicles between Jan. 1 and April 20 than during the same period last year.
The totals were $1,129.45 last year and $1,067.51 in 2008.
There are a couple of reasons:
1. We moved from Indiana to Arkansas and gas prices run about 10 cents/gallon less here than in Indiana.
2. We're driving fewer miles. Maria's daily round-trip commute here is 17 miles, less than half what it was in Indiana. When we lived in Indiana, we routinely drove 60-80 miles round-trip to shop in Lafayette or Indianapolis. Now, a shopping trip involves only 17-20 miles of driving.
I'm confident that gas prices will continue to rise and will soon erase that margin of saving, but it was nice to be ahead of the game for awhile.
Monday, April 28, 2008
The wedding album that has been hanging over my head since last July is done!
I ran into a software snag over the weekend that prevented me from uploading the finished product for client review and publishing. I was afraid I might have to re-do the whole 100-page, 299-photo album.
I got a reply this morning to my call for help from MyPublisher.com tech support that provided the fix and, unless the clients want changes, all I have to do is place the order for hard copies.
This is a huge relief. I have been feeling guilty for every waking minute not spent on this project and have been postponing lots of personal stuff until it was done.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
I hate to make it harder for people to leave legitimate comments, but this is the only way I have to make sure the comments are coming from real humans and not web bots spreading malware.
We made some modest improvements to our home here in the woods on Crowley's Ridge this weekend.
Saturday, we hosed a winter's worth of dust and dirt off of the exterior and knocked down several wasps' nests from the front porch ceiling. We also added a squirrel-proof bird feeder to the wild bird feeding station, which already included a hummingbird feeder. So far, we've seen one hummingbird, but the previous owners told us to expect flocks of them. They said they were having to refill their multiple hummingbird feeders on a daily basis, so we shall see.
Today's project was the purchase and application of 10 25-pound bags of red wood mulch - not that highly suspect rubber mulch Wal-Mart is pushing - around the front of the house.
Here are HDR images of both projects and, yes, the color saturation is cranked up a bit. The red mulch isn't quite this vivid.
Turns out, it's one of those made-up combination names like Texarkana and Mexicali.
The place is named for a couple of 19th century railroad magnates/robber barons - James W. Paramore and Jason "Jay" Gould. Paramour got heavily invested in Texas cotton, realized it would be more profitable to haul it to St. Louis by rail than ship it by sea and founded the Texas and St. Louis Railway. Gould, who was a buddy of the ultra-corrupt New York Boss Tweed, owned the Union Pacific and the Missouri Pacific Railroad. In 1880, he was in control of 10,000 miles of railway, about one-ninth of the length of rail in the United States at that time, and, by 1882, he had controlling interest in 15% of the country's tracks.
The town is situated at a point where railroads - Paramore's Texas and St. Louis and Gould's St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railroad, later known as the Missouri Pacific - intersected.
Local historian Trent Dowler writes that Gould objected to his name being second to Paramore's, but the name apparently made more sense than Gouldmore or Gouldpara.
I have yet to discover what the town's founders gained, if anything, from sucking up to Paramore and Gould. This, of course, explains why the brick signs at the city limits feature the profile of a steam locomotive.
We received an offer on our Indiana home on Thursday.
Our Realtor called me while I was at the county assessor's office, jumping through the first hoop of getting Arkansas license plates for our vehicles.
But there was much consternation about what the buyer was offering.
What was that second digit? An eight (woo-hoo)? A five (keep bidding)? Or was it a three (NFW)?
Read the number above and register your opinion over there on the right side of the page.
Eight of nine readers said the offer was for $185,000, one said it was for $135,000. Turns out it was $135k. We didn't even dignify it with a response.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Friday, April 25, 2008
In this case, it's the whereabouts of the people who had our phone number before it was assigned to us.
Ever since we moved into our Arkansas home, we've been getting calls from people asking for David or Jackie B.
At first, we figured it was just a mis-dial, a wrong number.
But they have persisted to a point where we average about one a day.
For awhile, we were getting daily automated calls from Wells Fargo asking us to call their office to discuss our account.
Maria wondered if we had a Wells Fargo account somewhere that we'd forgotten about. I assured her that we didn't. Finally, a few weeks ago, she called the Wells Fargo number, worked her way through the voice menu maze and connected with a human being. The B family no longer has this phone number, she explained, and we would be most appreciative if they would tell their phone robot to stop calling us.
The Wells Fargo calls abruptly stopped.
But others persist, leading me to conclude that David and Jackie skipped town owing money to a lot of people.
I did a cursory internet search and discovered that David, 37, and his wife Jackie, 35, had what is now our phone number when they lived on Prospect Road in Jonesboro sometime prior to last October.
It also appears they may have lived in Lepanto, Joiner, Bay, and/or Keiser, Ark.
I've also discovered what appears to be a current address and phone number for the B family and will share it with all future creditors until the calls stop.
This is Georgia, a cashier at the State Revenue Office, and she's issuing license plates for our 2 motorcycles. I got Arkansas plates for both cars yesterday, so we're up to speed now.
Who knew, this time last year, that our vehicles would be wearing Arkansas plates?
BTW, it cost $81.50 to plate our two cars and two motorcycles here in Arkansas. It would have cost us $296 in Indiana. Of course, the Indiana total includes excise tax and the Arkansas total does not. We pay the tax on our vehicles to Arkansas later this year, but it's my guess that we'll still get off cheaper.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
My Cancerian reluctance to ever throw anything away pays off from time to time, despite Maria's best efforts to jettison everything that isn't essential.
Among the stuff I've accumulated over the decades is this 9x7 promotional photo of Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane, circa 1967.
It was sent to The Indianapolis News, probably in a press kit along with a review copy of a Jefferson Airplane album, and I saw to it that it survived for more than 40 years.
Now I'm preparing to sell it on Ebay in the hope that someone will give it a new home where it will be better appreciated.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
You can read the whole analysis here.
This email has been making the rounds for a few months now, but it is doubtful that any of these tips will result in significant savings:
TIPS ON PUMPING GAS
I don't know what you guys are paying for gasoline.... but in California we are also paying higher, up to $3.50 per gallon. But my line of work is in petroleum for about 31 years now, so here are some tricks to get more of your money's worth for every gallon.
Here at the Kinder Morgan Pipeline where I work in San Jose , CA we deliver about 4 million gallons in a 24-hour period thru the pipeline. One day is diesel the next day is jet fuel,and gasoline, regular and premium grades. We have 34-storage tanks here with a total capacity of 16,800,000 gallons.
Only buy or fill up your car or truck in the early morning when the ground temperature is still cold. Remember that all service stations have their storage tanks buried below ground. The colder the ground the more dense the gasoline, when it gets warmer gasoline expands, so buying in the afternoon or in the evening....your gallon is not exactly a gallon.In the petroleum business, the specific gravity and the temperature of the gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, ethanol and other petroleum products plays an important role.
A 1-degree rise in temperature is a big deal for this business. But the service stations do not have temperature compensation at the pumps.
When you're filling up do not squeeze the trigger of the nozzle to a fast mode. If you look you will see that the trigger has three (3 )stages: low, middle, and high. In slow mode you should be pumping on low speed, thereby minimizing the vapors that are created while you are pumping. All hoses at the pump have a vapor return. If you are pumping on the fast rate, some of the liquid that goes to your tank becomes vapor. Those vapors are being sucked up and back into the underground storage tank so you're getting less worth for your money.
One of the most important tips is to fill up when your gas tank is HALF FULL or HALF EMPTY.The reason for this is, the more gas you have in your tank the less air occupying its empty space. Gasoline evaporates faster than you can imagine. Gasoline storage tanks have an internal floating roof. This roof serves as zero clearance between the gas and the atmosphere, so it minimizes the evaporation. Unlike service stations, here where I work, every truck that we load is temperature compensated so that every gallon is actually the exact amount.
Another reminder, if there is a gasoline truck pumping into the storage tanks when you stop to buy gas, DO NOT fill up--most likely the gasoline is being stirred up as the gas is being delivered, and you might pick up some of the dirt that normally settles on the bottom. Hope this will help you get the most value for your money.
DO SHARE THESE TIPS WITH OTHERS!
I view all emails like this with suspicion and turn to debunking sites like snopes.com to check their validity.
The short version is that underground tanks keep the fuel at a relatively constant temperature, so the ambient air temperature is pretty much meaningless when it comes to the density of the gasoline.
The cost in extra time spent only buying half-tanks of gas at a time may make the miniscule savings seem pointless.
Also, filters catch what little crud gets stirred up when tankers fill gas station underground tanks.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
We've had our vehicles insured with Progressive for the past several years.
When we moved to Arkansas, we discovered that our rates would change when it came time to renews. Turns out, the motorcycle coverage lapses at midnight tomorrow and the car coverage lapses at midnight May 6.
The auto rates will remain about the same, but the motorcycle insurance premium increases substantially because of the relatively longer riding season in Arkansas, compared with Indiana.
So I went insurance shopping last week and finished the task this morning.
We shifted our car insurance to State Farm because that's where our homeowners insurance is and we get a price break for consolidating. State Farm's rates for our two BMW motorcycles, however, were not competitive with Progressive.
I got quotes from AARP's insurance partner Foremost last week. This morning I checked out the outfit recommended by the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America (bmwmoainsurance.com) and Geico.
Geico's rate was $755 a year. The BMWMOA outfit came through with a premium almost three times that amount - $2,167 a year. WTF? Why did the BMWMOA hook up with these clowns?
So Geico wins and we're ridin' with the gecko.
Maria's parents headed for home yesterday, but not before we introduced them to the Arkansas Tenant Farmers Museum at Tyronza.
The museum, operated by Arkansas State University, chronicles the events surrounding the organization in 1934 of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union - the first of its kind in the nation.
You can read all about it at this page on the Encyclopedia of Arkansas website.
Maria's dad has a keen interest in history and culture and tries to soak up as much as possible whenever he travels. I think he thoroughly enjoyed his visit to the museum.
We had driven separately to Tyronza so they could continue their circuitous journey back to Indiana via some Civil War sites. Maria and I took the top off of the del Sol and took the scenic route home via Lepanto, where we discovered the famous "Painted House" from John Grisham's novel "The Painted House," Caraway, and Black Oak (population 286).
We got our first sunburn of the season.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Thanks to our Jonesboro BMW friends Charlie and Deb, we now have a new favorite Sunday brunch place in Memphis.
We took Maria's parents to Boscos (yep, no apostrophe before the s) and had a delightful brunch made even nicer by live music. Memphis jazz vocalist Joyce Cobb and her group perform every Sunday for the listening pleasure of the diners and it was well worth the trip.
We're eager to share our discovery with guests from the frozen north.
Despite image the local TV stations paint of a blood-soaked crime-ridden battleground, Memphis is a beautiful city with lots to do. And we didn't even get to Beale Street.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Maria's parents are visiting from Indiana this weekend, so we decided to give them an immersion course in Arkansas styles.
Here they are considering the purchase of a cammo loveseat, complete with cup holders and an armrest cooler.
According to the Center for Earthquake Research and Information's website, the 5.2 magnitude earthquake near Mount Carmel, Ill., yesterday was the first of a series of nine seismic events recorded there between 4:37 a.m. and 10:05 p.m.
Here's the list:
|5.2||04:37||6 mi. NW of Mount Carmel, IL|
|2.6||04:59||3 mi. NNW of Mount Carmel, IL|
|2.5||05:03||4 mi. NW of Mount Carmel, IL|
|2.5||05:15||3 mi. S of Noble, IL|
|3.4||05:36||6 mi. NNE of Bellmont, IL|
|2.2||05:46||4 mi. NNE of Bellmont, IL|
|2.6||06:55||6 mi. NW of Mount Carmel, IL|
|4.6||10:14||8 mi. E of West Salem, IL|
|2.7||22:05||5 mi. NNW of Mount Carmel, IL|
The U.S. Geological Survey ranks the ones in the 3 and above range as "significant events" and those are the ones that are noticeable to the average person. The smaller events are called "micro-earthquakes."
As of this posting, the USGS has received 36,863 reports from throughout the central United States about the 5.2 event, 6.337 reports concerning the 4.6 event and 817 reports about the 3.4 magnitude event.
Friday, April 18, 2008
The U.S. Geological Survey has some interesting data on this morning's magnitude 5.2 earthquake in southeastern Illinois.
Thus far, their website has received 32,853 reports from all over the central United States concerning what the USGS is calling Event 2008qza6. The reports include 5 from Jonesboro, Ark., and 11 from Paragould, Ark. Our place lies between those two cities.
Here's a map showing the intensity by Zip code for the area from which reports were received. If you want to read more or add your report, here's the link to the USGS site: http://pasadena.wr.usgs.gov/shake/cus/index.html
Here's the magnitude, time and epicenter location of this morning's earthquake activity in southeastern Illinois:
4.6 10:14:16 - 8 mi E of West Salem, IL
2.6 06:55:57 - 6 mi NW of Mount Carmel, IL
2.2 05:46:24 - 4 mi NNE of Bellmont, IL
2.4 05:36:33 - 6 mi NNE of Bellmont, IL
2.5 05:15:35 - 3 mi S of Noble, IL
2.5 05:03:59 - 4 mi NW of Mount Carmel, IL
5.2 04:37:00 - 6 mi NW of Mount Carmel, IL
The ones in the magnitude 2 range are called micro-earthquakes and usually go unnoticed by most people.
BTW, the Associated Press is behind the curve here. They're reporting only four aftershocks, concluding with the 4.6 temblor at 10:14 a.m.
The U.S. Geological Service reports a second quake - 4.1 on the Richter Scale - at 10:14 a.m. today a couple of miles from the epicenter of the pre-dawn jolt.
I thought I felt something about that time, but I dismissed it as being my imagination. Obviously, it was no big deal here.
Maybe it's a good thing to live on Crowley's Ridge when the faults slip.
Here's the website I use to keep tabs on seismic activity around here: http://folkworm.ceri.memphis.edu/recenteqs/
Oh, by the way, this is the 102nd anniversary of the 1906 earthquake that flattened San Francisco. Really. To the day.
The notion that Bill Clinton is sabotaging Hillary's campaign seems to be gathering momentum.
I heard it expressed last night on the Glen Beck show and the essence of it is that consciously or unconsciously, Bill Clinton can't handle the idea of going back to the White House as the first "First Man." Likewise, he may worry that she will overshadow his legacy and be judged by history as a better president than he.
Thomas B. Edsall has written a pretty comprehensive piece on the subject and you can read it here.
You'd think we would notice a magnitude 5.2 earthquake with an epicenter only 150 miles to our northeast.
But nope, we slept right through it.
I think most people who were awake around here at 4:36:59 a.m. CDT felt it, put it passed unnoticed at our house.
No cracks in tile or pavement, nothing falling off of shelves, nothing noticeable at all.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Maybe that's odd. Maria says she never looks.
Anyhow, I've started sharing the information with my fellow Arkansans (feels really weird to call myself that) by posting my observations on arkansasgasprices.com, a web site that lists the 15 stations in the state with the cheapest gasoline and the 15 that are charging the most.
I was on indianagasprices.com when I was in Indiana and was pleased to note that the Admiral station in Crawfordsville was on the low-price honor roll on a consistent basis.
The numbers in Jonesboro are decent, but not exceptionally good. That said, the $3.25/gallon price I noticed at a Conoco station here compares pretty well with the $3.33 being charged today by the MotoMart in Evansville, which happens to be the cheapest reported gas in Indiana.
I've noticed that Jonesboro gas prices are consistently lower that those in the Thorntown-Crawfordsville-Lebanon area. The average price of a gallon of regular today is $3.343 in Arkansas and $3.469 in Indiana.
We paid about $1,100 in interest on the loan, all of which is deductible under current tax law.
So I fired up the TaxCut software and plugged in the new data to determine if it's worth it to file an amended return. Turns out it means another $200 or so on our return, so I guess I'll go after it.
The tipoff was the fact that everything was running impossibly slowly or not at all.
Since most of my 500 GB secondary internal hard drive was empty, it only made sense to start shifting thousands and thousands of image files from weddings, news, family and other occasions over to the bigger drive. I'm up to 20 GB of free space on the C: drive and things are working much better and it's starting to feel like a Core2Duo should and the way it was when I got it 15 months ago.
So while sorting through the miscellaneous images in the My Pictures folder, I found a bunch of animated .gif files I've accumulated over the years. Here's one of them.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
I made the final payment on my 2003 BMW K1200GT this morning.
This is the first motorcycle I've financed in my 30-some years of riding, but the .9% interest BMW Financial Services was offering when I made the deal in '03 was impossible to pass up.
BERLIN (AFP) - A 13-year-old German schoolboy corrected NASA's estimates on the chances of an asteroid colliding with Earth, a German newspaper reported Tuesday, after noticing the experts had miscalculated.
Nico Marquardt used telescopic findings from the Institute of Astrophysics in Potsdam (AIP) to calculate that there was a 1 in 450 chance that the Apophis asteroid will collide with Earth, the Potsdamer Neuerster Nachrichten reported.
NASA had previously estimated the chances at only 1 in 45,000 but told its sister organization, the European Space Agency (ESA), that the young whizzkid had got it right.
The schoolboy took into consideration the risk of Apophis running into one or more of the 40,000 satellites orbiting Earth during its path close to the planet on April 13 2029.
Those satellites travel at 1.9 miles a second, at up to 21,528 miles above earth - and the Apophis asteroid will pass by earth at a distance of 19,500 miles.
If the asteroid strikes a satellite in 2029, that could change its trajectory making it hit earth on its next orbit in 2036.
Both NASA and Marquardt agree that if the asteroid does collide with earth, it will create a ball of iron and iridium 1049 feet wide and weighing 200 billion tons, which will crash into the Atlantic Ocean.
The shockwaves from that would create huge tsunami waves, destroying both coastlines and inland areas, whilst creating a thick cloud of dust that would darken the skies indefinitely.
The 13-year-old made his discovery as part of a regional science competition for which he submitted a project titled: "Apophis - The Killer Astroid."
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
It's time to post another trip story, this one from 1997. I began keeping a journal of my trips several years ago, making a point of sitting down at day's end – or over breakfast the next morning – to record the details of the day. Here is what I wrote in 100 pages of my journal in July, 1997.
Day 1 – Friday, July 4, 1997
Carmel to Salina, Kans.
Miles for the Day: 700
Here I am, sitting down to dinner at the end of a 700-mile day – and the first day at that – feeling surprisingly fresh and free of discomfort.
I might have been able to make Hays or Goodland, but that would have meant pitching a tent in the dark or paying for a motel, so this will do nicely.
Last night, I did a pretty thorough job of packing so there was little to do this morning but eat breakfast, shut down the apartment a load the bike.
I'd toyed with the idea of riding out at dawn (5:21 a.m.), but it didn't seem like such a great idea when the alarm went off at 5. I finally got up about 5:30 and managed to come very close to my original planned departure time of 7 a.m.
I rolled out at 7:03 a.m. with an odometer reading of 89,175 on my 1991 BMW K100RS.
The complicated electronic arrangement of Walkman and radar detector fed through the Boosteroo amplifier to my helmet headphones was disappointingly weak, due largely to the placement of the Bass Monster headphone speakers in the foam lining of my Shoei RF700 helmet. When you're trying to get a sound system to work properly in a helmet, over earplugs, there's no substitute for having the speakers up against the ears.
I resolved to tinker with the system over the next few days. In the meantime, I'd just have to settle for music and speech and radar detector bleats that were slightly louder than a thought.
I left in sunshine, but felt increasingly chilly as I rode west on I-70. I stopped at a KOA at the east edge of Terre Haute to pick up a KOA directory, used the restroom and put the liner into my jacket.
I encountered more cloud cover as I rode into Illinois, but found no rain.
Heeding part of friend Pattie Dick's warning, I skipped I-270 around St. Louis when I arrived at 11:30 a.m. I took I-70 through the downtown, encountering little of the holiday traffic she'd warned me about. I slowed on the Mississippi River bridge for traffic, which gave me a chance to snap of a photo of the Independence Day crowds around the base of the Arch.
Lunch was a Wendy's salad on the west edge of the St. Louis metropolitan area. I studied the KOA directory and decided to make for Salina, Kans, and phoned a reservation to their answering machine.
I was able to listen to tapes almost all day – usually with some clarity, but still too faint for my liking.
I was feeling some seat discomfort by 3 p.m. when I stopped at a Missouri rest area for free coffee from a church-run trailer.
I chatted with a Suzuki Katana rider from Lawrence, Kans., who was headed home from Texas and Florida and with a Harley-Davidson rider from Daleville, Ind.
They left a few minutes ahead of me and I hoped to catch up with them, but couldn't manage it.
I gassed about 20 miles east of Kansas City and phoned my girlfriend (now my wife) Maria – exactly 500 miles from home. I also noticed that Topeka is half-way between Indianapolis and Denver. How depressing.
The rest area coffee break and two aspirins seemed to erase my seat discomfort and made the rest of the day's ride easier.
This being a holiday weekend, there were lots of police out and my radar detector saved me several times.
Just east of Riley, Kans., I noticed a field of grass ablaze on the south side of the interstate with no fire fighters yet on the scene.
About 20-25 miles east of Salina, I was passed by a local on a Japanese bike with Vetter bags and Windjammer fairing. He wore jeans, a T-shirt and a baseball cap and had his legs splayed out on the highway pegs as he blew past me. I saw him again, just short of my Salina exit, where he was getting a speeding ticket and a lecture from a Kansas State Trooper.
I arrived at the KOA about 7:30, set up camp and rode down to the Mid-America Inn. I'd discovered this place a few years ago and enjoyed their Kansas-style barbecue.
The moveable type sign outside announced the business was under new management. I mentioned to the waitress that I hoped the new owners kept the barbecue on the menu, because I chose to stop at Salina for it.
She asked where I'm from.
"Indianapolis," I replied.
"Is that in Kansas?" she asked earnestly.
"No. Indianapolis, Indiana," I said, trying to hide my incredulity. "I rode 700 miles from there today."
She must have been impressed. I heard her tell the cashier that I came all the way from Indianapolis for their barbecue.
Unfortunately, the ribs offered up by the new management were disgustingly fatty and dinner was a supreme disappointment.
I returned to the KOA after topping off my gas tank and riding a couple of miles to make it an even 700 for the day.
Back at the tent, I read a few pages of Ted Simon's "Jupiter's Travels" while listening to the Salina Fourth of July fireworks in the near distance. Ted had phoned me out of the blue about six weeks earlier, saying he was on a nationwide tour promoting the new American Edition of the motorcycle classic and could I set something up for him in the Indianapolis area for Wednesday, July 23.
I agreed and booked a large lecture room at the Carmel Clay Public Library, also arranging for him to stay with fellow Indianapolis BMW Club members Tim and Linda Balough.
The sky was cloudless and the night promised to be cool. I discovered my earlier repairs to my inflatable camping pillow were insufficient – a minor inconvenience.
Day 2 – Saturday, July 5
Salina, Kans. to Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Miles for the Day: 626
I awakened about 4 a.m. and briefly considered getting up. I dozed again and a little after 5 a.m., was awakened by voiced in the campground. I decided to get moving and beat the rush to the showers – a habit learned through years of rallies at campgrounds with inadequate shower facilities.
I was the only person in the showers and reached for my Pack Towel at 5:15 a.m.
By the growing daylight, I packed and loaded and rolled out of the KOA a little after 6. I stopped at the Amoco by the interstate and boosted the air pressure in my tires from 37.5 to 42 psi. I noted that the oil level was at the dot in the center of the sight glass.
I fired it up and got onto I-70 west.
The rising sun flashed in my right mirror and painted the world with a golden light. The retroflective strips on the road picked up the light and threw it back as I rode through the cool morning air.
I thought about plugging in my electric jacket liner, but decided the day would warm soon enough.
I stopped about an hour later near Wilson at the Bear House Restaurant & Truck Stop.
Five local farmers were chatting about their neighbor kids' fireworks last night.
An autographed wartime photo of Bob Dole hung on the wall above what appeared to be a letter from the former U.S. Senator from Kansas.
Back on the road, I found the Walkman made it much easier to deal with Kansas.
At 9:08 a.m. the odometer rolled over 90,000 miles. In honor of the occasion, I wicked it up and rode the 90,001st mile at 100+ mph. This has been a truly remarkable machine and I look forward to seeing the odometer roll past the 100,000-mile mark. (I retired the bike six years later with more than 160,000 miles on the odometer.)
I gassed just inside Colorado and phoned BMW of Denver to check on the availability of accessory sockets. I'd discovered earlier that one of my sockets was no longer delivering power to the radar detector – not a problem in warm weather, but it could be a nuisance once I needed the other outlet to power my jacket liner and gloves.
They had the parts in stock and gave me directions to their shop from I-70.
The rest of eastern Colorado was pretty much a blur. I worried about storm clouds ahead, but the road turned away from them. The weather held and it was nice to see the tower and museum of oddities at Genoa has a new coat of red paint.
I grumbled through an 18-mile one-lane construction zone near Strasburg, but took heart that I could finally see the Rocky Mountains through the haze on the western horizon.
Coming into Denver, I noticed the old Stapleton Airport was gone, replaced by the big circus tent-like structure northeast or town.
I found the BMW shop, bought two sockets and was headed back to my bike when I noticed the new 1200cc BMW cruiser. I tried the seat and promised myself a demo ride sometime soon. I took three photos, saddled up and rode west on Evans, north on Federal and west on Sixth Avenue to Indiana Street where I gassed and booked tent space at the Steamboat Springs KOA.
I picked up I-70 again and followed it up into the mountains.
It's always a thrill to sweep up into the mountains from Denver, past Buffalo Bill's grave and Chief Hosa into Idaho Springs.
It became uncomfortably cold as I approached the Eisenhower Tunnel.
I decided to ride the four miles up to Loveland Pass and stopped at the foot of the pass road to put in the jacket liner and don gauntleted deerskin gloves.
I felt more comfortable than I had expected in the tight switchbacks and sweepers, recalling earlier years when my first taste of mountain riding pushed all of my acrophobic buttons.
I paused briefly at the summit where it was spitting snow before I headed back down.
I rode through the tunnel and down to Dillon where I picked up Colo. 9 north of Kremmling.
I had found warmth again, but kept the liner in until Kremling. I stopped by the same mountain lake where I had photographed the bike a few years ago and shot the same picture – this time, making sure I had the Panorama feature switched off.
I stopped at the Dairy King in Kremling for a soft serve and to shed the liner and heavy gloves.
This ride from I-70 to Steamboat was a delight. The colors were vibrant in the clear, dry air and the smell of sagebrush was so strong and dusty it caught in the back of my throat.
A few miles north of Dillon, I watched a hang glider pilot soar and swoop before landing at the edge of a lake, just as I rode past.
I crossed the Continental Divide at Rabbit Ears Pass and noticed there were patches of snow about.
I descended to the warmth of Steamboat and rode through to town to the KOA. Because I had phoned ahead, they gave me the last tent space short of overflow camping. This was one of their biggest weekends of the year and space was at a premium.
After pitching my tent and changing into my blue denim shirt, I pulled the bike up to the birdshit-stained picnic table to work on the accessory socket.
Testing it with the radar detector, I found both of the already-in-place sockets worked fine. What the hell?
I tucked my $26 worth of replacement sockets into the tailpiece against the day when one of the old ones quits.
I rode into Steamboat for dinner at BW3. The waitress – when she finally noticed me in my booth – was unfamiliar with O'Doul's. Fortunately, the bartender was more knowledgeable and I was soon on my second bottle.
I concluded the restaurant is run by kids barely over 21 and the lack of service shows it.
As I was getting ready to mount up at curbside, a couple of Harley guys from Wyoming pulled in. They were dazzled to learn I'd just left Indiana yesterday morning.
Back at camp, I noticed the cottonwood season was in full swing and the air was full of the little white seed pods. The breezes piled them up like light little snow banks at the edge of the road.
I managed to fall asleep, despite a cannonade of fireworks I was certain would ignite my tent and incinerate me and my stuff.
Day 3 – Sunday, July 6
Steamboat Springs, Colo. to Twin Falls, Id.
Miles for the Day: 567
The brightening of my tent walls signaled the coming dawn and roused me from my warm sleeping bag into a 40-something-degree morning about 5:15 a.m.
As usual, I was the first into the showers, but I lost the race to get my stuff packed and loaded before the sun cleared the mountain.
I found myself struggling with the chore of stuffing my tent and had to re-do it after it realized I'd forgotten to put the pole sack into the stuff sack before jamming in the tent and fly.
Riding into town in the chilly 6:30 a.m. air, I found the Mexican restaurant recommended by the KOA staff as the best place for huevos rancheros. Unfortunately, the restaurant wasn't due to open for another hour.
I'd noticed a couple of Gold Wings parallel parked in front of a cafe up the street, so I headed there.
The riders turned out to be a couple of old guys from south of Oakley, Kans., who had ridden over from Craig that morning.
They were ill-dressed for the cold, so I recommended they take Colo. 131 south to I-70 instead of snowy Rabbit Ears Pass to Kremling on U.S. 40.
I decided to go for warmth and donned my electric gloves and Turtle Fur balaclava, plugging in the electrics.
It turned out to be overkill and I stopped a short time later to unplug the gloves. At Craig, I stashed the controller and heavy gloves.
By the time I got to Dinosaur, I was ready to shed the liner and go for the light gloves.
A short distance west of Craig – just when I had decided the empty straight road and light sage brush meant I could wick it up to 100 or so – an antelope strolled out onto the road ahead of me. I braked and hit the horn, but he seemed pretty much unimpressed and, only after he'd cleared the pavement, did he break into a sprint.
I'd seen a couple of freshly killed deer between Steamboat and Craig and decided this was not the morning for serious speed.
My radar detector – plugged into the questionable socket – saved me from a cop in a sporty little white car west of Steamboat.
When I stopped at Dinosaur to shed clothing, I noticed all of the streets are named for dinosaurs. I snapped a picture of the bike next to a fenced-in concrete dinosaur of dubious scientific accuracy.
Utah was hot and blasted-out looking. I felt my spirits sag as the temperature rose and I slogged on through the morning.
I gassed at a Chevron station at Vernal within view of the Dinoville Motel's pink brontosaurus and its companion Tyrannosaurus Rex across U.S. 40. The motel dinosaur looked great in its new coat of paint, applied by the MTV Road Rules kids.
I think I recognized the spot, on a curve west of Vernal, where Tim and Linda Balough and I spotted a guy walking along the south side of the road, playing bagpipes on a cloudy afternoon in July, 1986. I've always regretted not stopping to learn who he was and what he was doing there.
I continued to work my way west through the morning, stopping at a gas station east of Park City for water and aspirin. I found myself talking with a guy who said his mother lives in Mooresville, Ind. He drove an aging land yacht, accompanied by a teenage girl and a miniature Doberman and gave me directions to take I-80 east to link with I-84 west.
Eventually, after passing a dozen or so crawling campers in canyons, I got to I-80 and I-84. I gassed at Ogden and reserved a room at the Twin Falls, Idaho, Motel 6.
I headed north on I-84 and almost immediately lost the plastic bottle of spring water I'd just bought for $1.16.
It was hot and I was feeling tired and jangled as I pressed on north.
I stopped for water at a rest park in Idaho and was accosted by Ken Kent, a carpet installer headed home to Boise on a Kawasaki 750.
He asked to ride along with me and we endured the battering of the west wind together all the way to Twin Falls. We stopped about 44 miles east of Twin Falls – me for gas and he for coffee.
I found the Motel 6 easily and phoned Maria.
Dinner was down the street at Jaker's served by a pleasant blonde named Susan who had just moved to Twin Falls from Boise.
Day 4 – Monday, July 7
Twin Falls, Id. to Portland
Miles for the Day: 563
I got my 5 a.m. wakeup call from Tom Bodette and flipped channels on the TV for awhile before getting up.
I got onto the road about 7:30 a.m., consoled by the fact that it was 6:30 a.m. where I was headed.
It was another perfect, cool, clear morning and the sun made rainbows of the fine spray from crop sprinklers along the south and west side of the road.
There had been no shortage or road kill on this trip and I was struck by the fact that I have seen or smelled skunk road kill everywhere I have ridden in the U.S. and Canada. Obviously, the skunk is a very adaptable, successful animal to have such a wide range. Well, maybe no too successful in terms of traffic, though, but no worse than others.
I gassed at Boise and had a cup of coffee. I tried to call my son Sean at home in Portland but he had just left for work.
The bike, as usual, was running nicely and I find it hard to imagine any other machine performing so well with more than 91,000 miles on the odometer.
The speed limit in Idaho was 75 mph and I was surprised to see it drop to 65 when I crossed the bridge into Oregon at Ontario. The traffic pace remained the same and I got no ominous signals from my radar detector. I supposed the police were back to normal strength now that the holiday weekend was over.
I gassed again at Baker City, mildly annoyed that the Chevron attendant had to hand me the nozzle in conformance with Oregon law.
I stopped at the rest area just north of Baker City and phoned Sean at work, getting a review of directions to his house.
In due course, the interstate angled west and I stopped at Pendleton for a Wendy's baked potato and frosty for lunch.
The Columbia River came into view and the road descended into the valley, which became the Gorge.
At my last gas stop of the day, a guy in a Volkswagen microbus solicited my help for a push to get out of the Chevron station and back onto the road.
The weather continued clear and I had glorious views of the snow-clad cone of Mt. Hood south of the river.
About 22 miles east of Portland a movement to my left caught my eye and I turned to see a raven gracefully descending to perch atop a roadsign post.
The traffic picked up as I entered Portland, but it being the start of the afternoon rush hour – 4:30 p.m. – most of it was headed the opposite direction.
I found the 43rd Street exit and connected with 42nd Street to ride directly to Sean's place. The key was where it was supposed to be and I let myself in to call Sean and Maria, also touching base with my mother.
Dinner was at a Mexican restaurant a few blocks away.
Fatigued and relaxed by Mexican beer, I hit the sack about 9.
Day 5 – Tuesday, July 8
Portland to Olympia, Wash.
Sean left early to pick up a rental car - a white Neon.
Sean and I climbed the hill north of his house for breakfast – an oddly made version of huevos rancheros for me, with way too much black beans.
Back at the house, I did a load of colored shirts and underwear while we got the rest of our stuff together to explore the Olympic peninsula in Washington.
We were ready before the laundry was and I spread the shirts out in the back seat to finish drying. I left my white socks and a handkerchief tumbling in the dryer.
Our first stop was the REI store where Sean bought a water bottle and I bought a light pile jacket, since I had nothing for conventional – non-electric – warmth except my jacket liner.
We stopped at Kelso, Wash., for a Taco Bell lunch and to visit a Target across the street for socks, batteries and razor blades.
We were in rain the rest of the way to Olympia and bagged it early at the Motel 6 in Tumwater.
We bought a newspaper and drove to a theater to see Men in Black.
We explored downtown Olympia and had a couple of slices of pizza at a grunge pizzeria downtown before returning to the motel to drink beer and watch TV.
Day 6 – Wednesday, July 9
Olympia, Wash. to Klaloch, Wash.
We got off to a leisurely start, having breakfast in a '50s theme diner in Tumwater
before setting out to drive counter clockwise around the Olympic peninsula.
We followed Wash. 112 along the north shore, stopping for lunch at a little restaurant at Clalam Bay before pressing on to Neah Bay at the extreme northwest corner of the 48 contiguous states.
We tried to follow the dirt road to Cape Flattery, but gave up when we came to a section that was flooded.
We were in and out of rain all day.
Turning south on U.S. 101, we entered Olympic National Park and the Hoh Rain Forest and took a damp 1.8-mile walk through the forest.
We decided against camping there, instead driving south to the South Beach primitive campground at Klaloch.
The soil was very rocky and we were forced to hammer our tent pegs in at a very shallow angle with a rock. Our campsite was on a bluff overlooking the crashing waves of the Pacific.
Sean whipped up a tasty dinner of tuna and Raumen noodles that we washed down with warm Rainier beer.
A rain squall blew in from sea and forced us into the tent with our dinner.
It rained off and on through the night – particularly around 1:30 a.m
I slept lightly but it was a wonderful experience to camp by the ocean. The temperature remained warm – mostly in the mid-50s – and the tent worked well to keep us and our gear dry.
Day 7 – Thursday, July 10
Klaloch, Wash. to Portland
Total Car miles: 726
We were up at daybreak and packed a very wet tent before heading south in search of breakfast.
We paused to check out the Native American village of Queets in the Quinault Indian Reservation. We found an aging black Labrador retriever guarding the main intersection One house had a pickup truck in the driveway covered with crows. It looked like a scene from “The Birds,” and I wondered if the owner of the home was named Many Crows.
After taking some photos, we drove on south to JJ's Cafe at Quinault.
The place, run by an Indian, is kind of a community center for the village. The owner was playing some kind of dice game with some of his regular male customers at the counter.
The waitress brought us coffee, looked at me and asked, “You scream?”
Sean and I, realizing she had slurred together the question, “Use cream?” exchanged knowing smiles, suppressed the impulse to scream and answered accordingly.
A couple of guys touring on bicycles came in a few minutes later and took a table next to ours.
After breakfast, I decided I'd had enough of driving around in the rain, so we headed home to Portland.
We stopped at REI where I re-activated my 23-year-old membership and bought a red Outdoor Research water bottle holder, a compression stuff sack and a re-usable exothermic hand warmer.
When we returned to Sean's, we lunched on left-over chips and dip from the previous night's dinner and hung my tent to dry in his basement.
I took another shot at fixing the air leaks in my camping pillow and wrote some postcards.
We went to an Italian restaurant for dinner, followed by a trip to the Baghdad Theatre to see the Prince classic, “Purple Rain.”
Day 8 – Friday, July 11
Total Car miles: 726
Sean and I went to breakfast at Wive's Tales and then drove out U.S. 26 to the Timberline Lodge on the slopes of Mount Hood – 5,900 feet up the 11,245-foot slope.
The parking lot was nearly filled with cars and vans of skiers and snow boarders.
We met one large contingent of students from Taiwan who had never seen snow before.
Back at Sean's, we assembled a CD rack, I did laundry and began packing for the ride out tomorrow. I used a couple of small chunks of Styrofoam cut from the CD rack packing material to re-position the Bass Monsters headphones within the foam liner of my helmet, in hopes that snugging the headphones up against my ears would improve the volume and fidelity of the Walkman/radar detector sound.
I have about 1,000 miles to cover from here to Palm Springs.
I discovered I was down about a quart of oil and added the quart of BMW oil I'd brought from Indianapolis.
Sean drove me to an auto parts store where I picked up a quart of Castrol GTX 20W50.
After dinner, we watched the first half of a videotaped biography of German director Leni Riefenstahl, then went to bed.
Day 9 – Saturday, July 12
Portland to Los Banos, Calif.
Miles for the Day: 711
I was up at 4:50 a.m. and had the bike loaded by 5:30. Sean made me a cup of coffee and we chatted until it was time for me to go. I said my good-byes and fired up the bike exactly at 6 a.m.
I got onto I-5 and found my headphone adjustments of the previous day made an enormous difference in sound quality. I listened effortlessly to National Public Radio's Saturday Weekend Edition program as I rode south out of town.
I made an abortive exit at Salem in quest of an easy-off/easy-on restaurant for breakfast. I returned to I-5 minutes after a southbound van pulling a trailer flipped the trailer and hurled debris across a concrete divider into the windshield of a northbound car. The car driver was sitting by his car, holding his head in his hands, and his wife was standing by his side as southbound traffic attempted to creep past the van and trailer. I considered that my mistaken exit a few minutes earlier may have saved me from being there when the crash went down.
I stopped a short time later for breakfast at a McDonald's at Cottage Grove. Minutes after getting back onto the interstate, I came upon another accident scene in the southbound lanes where an injured person on a gurney was being loaded aboard an ambulance. Once again, it appeared my decision to exit had saved me from being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Then, again, on I-5 north of Sacramento, a Honda Accord I was following shredded a left rear tire. The car veered onto the median and I swerved right and missed most of the rubber debris. Even so, I felt something bounce off of my right knee.
Earlier in the morning, the weather was cool enough to require electrics.
South of Shasta, descending from the mountains toward Redding, the temperature rose sharply into the 90s.
I bought a bottle of water at a gas stop some 22 miles north of Redding and was pleased to find the Outdoor Research bottle carrier from REI worked fine.
I used the water to soak my T-shirt a couple of times to remain cool as I pressed on into the afternoon heat.
I stopped near Redding and made a reservation at what I thought was the Los Banos Motel 6.
I stopped for dinner at a McDonald's south of Tracy, then rode the last 57 miles to Los Banos.
When I arrived at the Motel 6 – the same place I'd stayed in 1986 when I was headed to Burbank to visit my Mouseketeer friend Doreen Tracey – I discovered I'd mis-read the Motel 6 directory and made a reservation at the Lost Hills Motel 6, several miles further south on I-5.
The Motel 6 desk clerk canceled the erroneous reservation and gave me a ground floor room at Los Banos.
I phoned my friend Carol Slack for last-minute directions and left a message for Maria.
At 711 miles, this was the longest day of the trip so far.
I went to bed about a 9 p.m. and was awakened a couple of hours later by a call from Maria saying she had confirmed our reservations for the following week at the West Wind Lodge in Monterey.
Day 10 – Sunday, July 13
Los Banos, Calif. to Palm Springs, Calif.
Miles for the Day: 383
I got my Tom Bodette 4 a.m. wakeup call, dozed for a few minutes and hit the shower, energized by the prospect of dealing with the Los Angeles freeway system.
I truck stop convenience store and a Denny's were within easy walking distance, so I bought a map of the L.A. freeways and had a raisin bran breakfast before returning to my room to pack and load.
When I started the engine just before 6 a.m., I noticed my 100-watt high beam was dead. Since the low beam is stronger than most motorcycle high beams and it was working fine, I elected to put off repairs until tomorrow. With Conspicuity best and clear goggles, I hit the road as the glow on the eastern horizon heralded the coming dawn.
I watched the sun creep over the Central Valley fields to the east of the road, gently giving color to the mountains on my right.
When I stepped out of my room this morning, I was reminded of the warm nights I'd experienced more than 30 years ago in U.S. Air Force basic training in Texas.
My headphones and radio were working very well and I was nicely entertained through the whole ride.
I gassed about 60 miles south of Los Banos and rode out the tank for 195 miles until I was well into the mountains guarding the north of the Los Angeles basin. It was one of the few times in the trip that I've ridden any serious distance with the red fuel warning light glaring at me.
I found the Foothill Freeway – I-210 – and followed it through light Sunday morning traffic to I-10 and east thorough San Bernardino and Redlands and into the desert heat.
I'd made the acquaintance of Carol Slack on America Online a year or so earlier. We found we had much in common, since we were both born on July 14, 1945. Consequently, we decided to celebrate our birthday together.
I reached Carol's place at 11:30 a.m. and she buzzed me through the gate to the covered parking area.
Maria's birthday parcel had arrived at Carol's place and I phoned her to tell her I'd arrived and received the package. She insisted we open the box, which contained delicious Mark Allen chocolate truffles from Lebanon, Ind. – well-packed and unmelted. Amazing!
We ordered a Domino's pizza and hung out until mid-afternoon when we went to Blockbuster Video for a couple of Wallace & Gromit movies, then on to the theater to see "Contact."
Dinner was at the Blue Coyote Grill, where I had margaritas and salmon steak.
We crashed about 10 p.m.
Day 11 – Monday, July 14
Palm Springs, Calif.
Miles for the Day: 20
We rode the bike to breakfast at Elmer's Pancake and Steak House, then went in search of an H-4 halogen 100-watt headlight bulb. We finally found one at a Yamaha dealership. The heat was incredible and we were forced to shed our jackets to survive, but it was good to get the headlight problem solved.
We rented "Desperado" and watched it, then celebrated our shared 52nd by riding to dinner at the Blue Coyote.
After dinner, we played a couple of games of Trivial Pursuit and retired.
Day 12 – Tuesday, July 15
Palm Springs, Calif., to Monterey, Calif.
Miles for the Day: 518
I was up seven minutes before the alarm was to go off at 4 a.m. and had the bike loaded by 4:35 a.m.
It was surprisingly (to me) hot – mid-80s – and the parking garage made it seem hotter because of all the heat impounded and radiating from the concrete.
Carol and I chatted over coffee and said our good-byes.
She opened the parking lot gate for me and I rolled out into the warm pre-dawn darkness at 5:08 a.m.
The sky was beginning to lighten by the time I joined the stream of westbound traffic on I-10.
As soon as I crested the pass at Banning, the temperature dropped about 15-20 degrees and I soon stopped at a gas station to put the liner into my jacket. The attendant came out to chat and observed that mine was only the second BMW motorcycle he'd ever seen. I decided against commenting on his powers of observation.
Back on the freeway, traffic continued to build and slowed to a crawl somewhere around San Bernardino. I sat in line briefly, then a motorcycle shot past along the line separating the far left lane and its neighbor to the right.
I watched closely, noticing the car drivers seemed to be cooperative. After another bike flashed past, I gingerly eased into the “bike lane” and headed past the slowed or stopped cars and trucks. It got a little tight in places and I took an occasional break by easing back into a lane, but over the next several miles, I figure I saved myself a half-hour or so.
I was listening to an L.A. FM radio station and it was fascinating to correlate the traffic reports with what I was observing and with my limited knowledge of the freeway system.
Sometime after the 210 swung west, I got into the Ride Share lane and it was clear sailing all the way back to I-5.
I gassed a short time later and rode over the mountains, stopping for breakfast at Grapevine at a Denny's.
A California road map from the Shell station across the street convinced me to take Calif. 46 west to U.S. 101 at Paso Robles.
Along the road to Paso Robles, I saw signs indicating this was the highway were James Dean died.
I decided one dead Hoosier was enough and made a point of surviving all the way to Paso Robles.
It felt good to get back onto El Camino Real and I relaxed into the ride up to Salinas. I found the connector route to Calif. 68 and was soon riding past the Toro Place Cafe and Laguna Seca Raceway.
After a little road-addled fumbling, I found Munras Avenue and the West Wind Lodge at 1:40 p.m. When I checked in, I was pleasantly surprised to learn Maria was already here.
As I dropped the sidestand in my parking place, Maria emerged from the room to greet me with a very welcome hug and kiss.
We did a brief soak in the motel hot tub, then set out for Maria's first visit to Calif. 1 and Nepenthe.
I needed gas, so we rode to the Arco station, just down the street.
It was one of those ubiquitous California “Pay-before-you-pump” places, so I sent Maria in with my VISA card and tried to pump some fuel. I pulled back the “foreskin” on the anti-fume nozzle, flipped the pump lever and, waiting for the clerk to turn on the pump, locked the nozzle into its full-on position.
Maria returned to say this was a “cash only” station. I was low on cash and decided to give the guy a $100 traveler's check.
Back at the pump, I lifted the nozzle, flipped the pump lever and – forgetting I'd left the trigger locked on – shot a quick $1.69 worth of premium all over the bike, onto Maria's gloves and into my open helmet.
Freaking out and sliding around on the now slippery concrete, I retrieved my traveler's check from the clerk and we rode off.
I could feel the chemical burn from the gasoline starting on the back of my head as we rode down to Carmel Valley Road and a Union 76 station.
I was relieved to see they had a credit card pump, but when the pump read the magnetic data strip on my VISA card, it flashed a message for me to see the attendant.
Inside the station, I found him on the phone to Citibank. He handed me the phone and the girl on the other end verified my full name and my mother's maiden name.
She explained that I had several gas charges lately and a $400 Monterey motel charge and wanted to be sure it really was me using the card.
In no mood to appreciate the merits of Citibank's security policies and still off-balance from the Arco debacle, I tersely explained that I was on vacation and that's why I had the card in the first place and should I take my business to a credit card company that could deal with people who take vacations?
I also was low on oil, so we rode into the nearby shopping center and an auto parts place where I bought a quart of Castrol and put about two-thirds of it in, pitching the rest.
After a little more confused searching, we found our way back onto Calif. 1 southbound.
The Carmel Highlands were in fog – it was about 4 p.m. by now – but it was still a glorious ride and we were soon in bright sunshine.
The lower cafe at Nepenthe was closed, so we went upstairs and had a wonderful dinner seated outside and facing the sea.
I had salmon steak freshly caught in Monterey Bay and Maria had a shrimp and scallop salad.
Nepenthe was the perfect cure for the weirdness of the last hour and it put me back into good spirits.
The ride back was one of the most amazing I've ever had. The fog was rolling in and every bend in the road brought a new fantastic scene: fog spilling into a sun-filled valley to our right or plumes of mist welling up like geysers over the cliffs to our left.
We got back to the room happy but very tired – we'd both been up since well before dawn and Maria, especially, was running on empty.
Day 13 – Wednesday, July 16
Miles for the Day: 2
We took our time about getting up, then hiked down Munras to Denny's for breakfast.
After Maria finally contacted her kids, we walked down to the harbor where we watched a sea otter preening himself in the water just below the harbor master's office.
We strolled west along the shore, stopping to explore some of the shops at Fisherman's Wharf and sharing a peach frozen yogurt cone.
We continued on through Cannery Row to the Monterey Bay Aquarium where we spent about three hours marveling at the world class displays of marine life from the microscopic to the huge.
Walking back, we took a wrong turn and added maybe a mile to the mostly-uphill journey.
We were pretty worn out by the time we got back to the motel, collected new pool towels and fresh apples from the office.
After a soak in the hot tub, we flopped down for a nap.
We rode the bike back down to Fisherman's Wharf for a huge seafood dinner at Rappo's Restaurant at the end of the pier.
We rode back to the motel, watched a little TV and bagged it about 9 p.m., very full and very tired.
Day 14 – Thursday, July 17
Monterey, Calif. to Morro Bay, Calif.
Miles for the Day: 274
We were up early and rode out to the Toro Place Cafe for breakfast. After breakfast,
the spent a few minutes examining the art of a woodcarver who had set up shop just west of the cafe. His forte is carving bears and other creatures from old logs. His work was quite good, but neither of us had any place at home for such big stuff.
After topping off the tank at an Exxon station near Laguna Seca, we returned to Calif. 1 and headed down the coast. The light fog soon yielded to sunshine and we stopped frequently to admire the colors, examine the plant life and take pictures.
We stopped at Nepenthe for drinks and a large chocolate chip cookie.
Downstairs at the Phoenix gift shop, Maria bought me a Nepenthe denim shirt for my birthday.
Advertised construction delays at Gorda turned out to be just a stop-and-go pause as we continued down the coast.
Glancing down and to the right on the last tight switchback south of Ragged Point, we were startled to see a semitrailer truck on its side in the ravine – a grim reminder of why you seldom see big trucks on the Big Sur stretch of Calif. 1.
We made quick work of the 40 miles of sweepers north of Morro Bay and began looking for lunch.
Bob's Seafood was closed for remodeling, so we chose the Galley for its view of the harbor and Morro Rock. Lunch was cheerfully served fried shrimp and clam strips. We watched the gulls and pelicans swoop and dive in the afternoon sun from our table by the window.
After lunch, we visited a nearby gift shop were Maria bought a ring for her daughter, Morgan.
Standing by the bike, Maria was suddenly splattered by pelican poop. It caught the right shoulder of her leathers, a dab on the top of her head and splashed onto the tank, fairing and handlebars of the bike.
She got some paper towels from the gift shop and we cleaned things up as well as we could before gassing and getting out of town.
The ride north went quickly because traffic was light and Maria was getting more into leaning into the turns.
We stopped at Lucia for iced mocha and iced tea before riding on north.
We reached Carmel and the beach near Point Lobos in time to dance with the surf and watch the sun set on a near perfect day.
After changing out of leathers, we walked down to the liquor store and picked up a six-pack of Pacifico beer, a bag of Tostitos and some jalapeno cheese dip for a few hours of television watching.
Another splendid day!
Day 15 – Friday, July 18
Monterey, Calif. to Soledad Mission and back
Miles for the Day: 118
We returned to Denny's for breakfast this morning and ran into two couples on matching white Honda Gold Wings from Tennessee.
After breakfast, we headed down Carmel Valley Road. About 10 miles down the road from Calif. 1, we gassed and shed our jacket liners.
As we rode south, the road plunged into twisty canyons, following creeks and over-arched with ancient oak trees.
I felt as if I had been transported back to old Spanish California as we rode mile after mile in the dense woods, seeing only the occasional car or pickup truck.
We passed an isolated ranch with curious-looking signs requesting, “Please avoid newts crossing the road.”
A little further down the road, a sign advised: Cattle Guards Next 11 Miles.
Eventually, the road climbed out of the canyons over bast brown grassy hills, affording vistas that opened onto mountains and valleys for miles.
The road was designated G16 and, on an impulse, I turned right at a bridge and followed G17 toward Greenfield past fields of grape vines flying silver ribbons, presumably to frighten birds away from the ripening fruit. At Greenfield, we picked up U.S. 101 and rode north a few miles until I saw a sign directing us to Soledad Mission.
I exited and we found the mission a short time later west of the main highway.
We found a BMW K75 parked in the mission lot, belonging to a couple who were also out for a day ride.
It was becoming a warm day, but it was comfortably cool inside the thick adobe walls of the restored mission, originally founded by Spanish padres in 1792.
After exploring the mission and marveling at the Virgin Mary dressed in black lace, we lit a couple of candles and returned to G17. We followed the road north and west through more agricultural land where farm workers were packing lettuce from the fields. We also passed a large field of cultivated cactus, speculating that it might be destined for the distillery.
We picked up Calif. 68 just west of Salinas and returned to Monterey and the West Wind Lodge.
We changed clothes and rode down to Fisherman's Wharf for a delicious dinner of seafood provencal at Ablonetti's followed by ice cream cones for dessert.
Even though it was a low-mileage day, these were quality miles.
We gathered up our dirty laundry and spent about an hour at the Del Monte Shopping Center laundromat, then capped the evening with a soak in the hot tub.
Day 16 – Saturday, July 19
Monterey, Calif. to Lucia and back
Miles for the Day: 122
We rolled out about 9:30 a.m. and headed down Calif. 1 for one last coastal ride.
It was chilly and foggy and delightful.
We passed a large herd of Herefords on the plateau sweeping down to the sea just north of Big Sur. In a corner of the field were a couple of herdsmen, dressed as cowboys – one of them wheeling his mount in clockwise circles as we flashed by.
We gassed at the BP station at River Inn, paying a stunning $2.30 a gallon for 92 octane premium.
Then, it was on to Nepenthe where we arrived moments before a large contingent of the California Pantera Club, out for a Saturday morning drive. Intent on beating the car club crowd, we hustled up to the Cafe Kevah, where I had an omelet and Maria had a tostito and we fed sourdough toast to the Steller's Jays and the crows on the cafe deck.
Returning to the bike after browsing the Phoenix, we noticed a 1991 pearl silver K100RS with an Indiana license plate parked in the center of the parking lot.
We searched the premises and, on the upper restaurant deck, found John and Kim Simpson from Bloomington. We were surprised to learn that, not only did he and I share the same first name, but he has silver hair and is a journalism graduate of Indiana University. Adding to the coincidences was the fact that John had ridden out and rendezvoused with Kim, who flew to San Francisco. They were heading to San Diego, where they would fly home together. The plan was for John to fly back and September and ride the bike home via a southern route.
I also noticed he was fighting the same exhaust system problems that plagued my bike for several years. The original weld where the header pipes meet the muffler had broken and been welded, only to break again on this trip.
We chatted for several minutes, then left John and Kim to finish their food and headed south.
We stopped a couple of times to take photos, finally drawing rein at Lucia for drinks and a $3 chocolate chip and macadamia nut cookie.
John and Kim showed up presently and I shot a picture of them slowing for the Lucia cafe parking lot.
We passed another pleasant half-hour in conversation, during which time a Honda sport bike rider from Santa Cruz joined us. Eyeing our nearly identical bikes and Indiana plates, he couldn't believe we'd only just met at Nepenthe.
Finally, we took our leave and headed back north, stopping a couple of places for Maria to get pictures of me on the bike with the coastline features in the background.
We paused at the beach near Point Lobos for Maria to collect a baggie of sand for her son Austin, then found ourselves in s-l-o-w stop-and-go traffic, stretching all the way past Carmel Valley Road.
After several minutes of crawling, we were passed by a Harley rider on the berm and followed him past scores of cars to the open freeway.
Back at the room, I called a Yellow Cab while Maria changed and we packed her leathers.
The cab arrived within minutes and I followed it to the airport, catching up with Maria halfway through the terminal.
Our plans for a leisurely pre-flight dinner evaporated when the desk clerk at American Eagle recommended strongly that Maria take the plane that was ready to leave (about 5:45 p.m.) rather than wait for her scheduled 7:30 p.m. flight.
We hustled her to the gate and she was off to Los Angeles, Chicago and home.
I rode back to the West Wind Lodge, read some of Ted Simon's Jupiter's Travels, watched some TV and ordered a pizza and Diet Coke from Domino's.
I left a message on my home answering machine for Maria to call me when she got it, presumably about 5:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.
Day 17 – Sunday, July 20
Monterey, Calif. to Lee Vining, Calif.
Miles for the Day: 302
I slept fitfully – partly because of the late-night pizza and probably in anticipation of the ride home. I got up at 6:15 a.m. and Maria called about 7:30 from my place.
I loaded and checked out, topping off the tank at the Union 76 station at Munras and Soledad. I wanted to check tire pressures but their pump had the wrong style of nozzle.
I rode out to the Toro Place Cafe for a light breakfast and got onto the road in earnest a little after 9 a.m.
I rode east to Salinas, then north on U.S. 101 past Hollister and across I-5 near Los Banos.
My route took me through Merced and I topped off the tank at Mariposa, heading toward Yosemite National Park on Calif. 140.
I entered the park at the Arch Rock Entrance and traveled east down the Yosemite Valley, past Bridal Veil Falls, El Capitain and Yosemite Falls, getting a glimpse of Half Dome before I doubled back in heavy traffic.
It was slow and hot going up Big Oak Flat Road, stopping to use the restroom and buy drinking water at the start of Tioga Road.
I was surprisingly wrung out by the time I exited the park and arrived in Lee Vining. I gassed at the Chevron Station at the north end of town, then stopped at a restaurant for a late lunch/early dinner.
While there, Dave Gluss from the Bay area rode in from Death Valley on his R1100RS and joined me. We traded stories and chatted awhile and I decided to to try to ride into Nevada this late in the day.
I ended up spending about $75 for a room at the Gateway Motel overlooking Mono Lake.
After resting awhile, I rode down to the Chevron station to check tire pressures – both exactly 42 psi – and to take a closer look at the lake. I determined later that this is probably where I parted company with my fancy-schmantzy BMW digital tire gauge. Riding without saddlebags or tank bag, I stuffed the gauge into my jacket pocket and it apparently worked its way free during the ride to the lake and back.
Once back in Lee Vining, I walked across the street from the motel to the Mono Lake Information Center to learn a bit about the geology and history of the lake.
I was pleasantly cool this evening, probably because the altitude of Lee Vining is about 6,700 feet.
I hope to get deep into Utah tomorrow.
Day 18 – Monday, July 21
Lee Vining, Calif. to Green River, Utah
Miles for the Day: 694
I was up at 5:30 a.m. and, after an unsuccessful search for the post office and an open restaurant, rode out of town about 6:30.
Concerned about deer, I rode slowly and cautiously through a long wooded section of Calif. 120 and an amazing set of dips guaranteed to get a bike airborne at any speed over 70 mph.
Because of the hour and the altitude, it was cold and I stopped after about 30 minutes to connect the thermostatic control to my electrified jacket liner.
I found the stretch of U.S. 6 where I set my earlier speed record of 146, but found I could only manage 138 or 139 (indicated) with camping gear on the back.
I gassed at Tonopah and had a breakfast of corned beef hash and eggs while perusing a Las Vegas newspaper.
Riding out of Tonopah, I noticed the school nickname is “the Muckers,” a reference to the town's mining history.
Traffic was heavier than I expected and I took longer than anticipated to make Ely, even though I did some stretches at 120+ mph.
I stopped at the Ely post office to buy stamps and write a few post cards, then gassed and headed out of town.
After a few minutes on the road, I realized I was on U.S. 93, headed north to Wendover, instead of U.S. 6/50 eastbound for Utah.
I doubled back, losing 47 miles, and picked up the right road.
A few files out of town, rain forced me into my rain suit for the first time on the trip. Fortunately, it was a very localized shower. In these wide-open spaces of Nevada, I could gaze out across a vast valley and see five or six separate rain showers watering the desert.
When I stopped to doff the suit, I noticed I was low on oil and added about two-thirds of a quart of Castrol.
I droned on through the afternoon, fighting savage crosswinds from the south as I approached the Utah border.
I gassed at Delta and, after having a fruit smoothie, decided to make for the Motel 6 at Green River.
Noting the absence of services between Salina and Green River, I topped off at Salina before getting onto I-70.
It had been a few years since I came this way and I was amazed anew at the fantastic red and bronze towers of sandstone flanking the road all the way to Green River.
I stopped at a vista point 18 miles west of Green River to photograph some particularly striking buttes and towers ablaze with the last rays of the sun.
Dinner was cheese enchiladas at the Tamarisk Restaurant just up the road from the Green River Motel 6. It was a long day with a spectacular finish.
Day 19 – Tuesday, July 22
Green River, Utah to Hays, Kans.
Miles for the Day: 695
I woke up earlier than planned and made the acquaintance of Wayne and Fran Connor, a Harley couple from Port Charles, La., who were in the room next to mine.
As we loaded our bikes, I suggested Ben's Cafe for breakfast and they decided to join me, rather than ride on to Salina for breakfast.
Connor is an engineer for the Illinois Central Railroad and he and his wife were headed west on a pair of Harleys they trailered to Denver.
I finally got onto I-70 about 9 a.m. and headed east into the brilliant rays of the morning sun.
Near the Colorado border, I passed an Airstream motor home pulling a pickup truck with a Gold Wing in the bed of the truck. I chuckled at how some people make travel so complicated.
I entered the canyon of the Colorado River at Grand Junction and rounded a curve to see a slab of rock had fallen into the right lane from the face of a nearby cliff. A highway worker was frantically waving traffic into the left late. About 50 yards beyond the rockfall was an old Japanese car with a smashed windshield, leaving me to ponder if the two things were related.
A little further on, the country opened up into a wide valley and passing clouds painted their shadows on the southern faces of the escarpment.
I gassed at Rifle and pressed on, locking onto an Eagle County FM station most of the way to Vail.
As I rejoined the freeway at Rifle, I noticed a couple of Harleys in my rearview mirrors. I settled into a comfortable pace of 75 mph and watched the two bikes close the distance. Presently, the two riders swept past – a man and a woman, both in T-shirts and bare-headed. The woman's medium-length blonde hair snapped furiously in the windstream and I marveled at how anyone could put up with that kind of wind noise and pummeling for more than a few miles.
Apparently satisfied to have passed me, the couple dropped about 5 mph. I slowed and rode in staggered formation with them for a few miles, then wicked it back up to 75 and blew by them with a wave.
I gassed again at Frisco, bought a fresh bottle of spring water and phoned Maria at work to let her know I was less than an hour from Denver.
Interstate 70 through Denver was very rough and the jolts, coupled with the temperature rising into the 90s soon had me cranky and cursing.
I stopped for gas again at Limon and lunched on a Wendy's pita. I called in a reservation for a room at the Hays, Kans., Motel 6.
I checked in about 9:20 p.m. and phoned Maria, also checking in the Tim and Linda Balough to confirm that Ted Simon knew how to get to the Carmel Clay Public Library for his lecture tomorrow night.
Day 20 – Wednesday, July 23
Hays, Kans. to Carmel, Ind.
Miles for the Day: 792
Total trip Miles: 7,090
I'd set the alarm on my watch for 3:30 a.m., but ignored it and slept a couple more hours.
I was packed and loaded and on the road by 6:30 a.m. as the eastern sky brightened.
Somewhere west of the first Wilson, Kans., exit, I saw a coyote preparing to cross my lanes from the median. I wondered if he had the savvy to get safely across the highway and through the fences.
I entertained myself listening to country music on KHAZ, the Hays FM station.
I knew at the outset that the radio and helmet speakers would be a godsend on today's long slog across the plains and fields of the Midwest.
About 10 a.m., it was getting hot and steamy and I stopped at the Lawrence, Kans., service plaza on the Kansas Turnpike for a Hardee's breakfast of coffee and a bacon-egg-and-cheese biscuit.
As usual, the view of downtown Topeka from I-70 gave the impression that the city is empty – little traffic and few people in evidence.
A local jazz station made the sometimes-hectic ride through Kansas City almost pleasant and I soon settled down into an afternoon drone through Missouri.
I gassed near Columbia and bought a fresh bottle of spring water, realizing that part of my fatigue and discomfort in previous days was probably due to dehydration.
St. Louis was a nightmare of 92-degree heat and construction as I those I-70 thorough town, rather than the northern bypass I believed was even more clogged with construction and traffic.
As I negotiated the approach to the Mississippi River bridge about 3 p.m., the odometer rolled over 96,000 miles. I patted the gas tank as I would the neck of a horse and spoke a few words of gratitude and encouragement to this wonderful machine that has been a continuing source of fun and adventure for me for the past seven years.
I stopped for a late McDonald's lunch about 47 miles into Illinois and was soon back in the saddle.
I gassed at a familiar Shell station at Effingham, secure in the knowledge that this tank would carry me home with a comfortable margin.
I cross the Indiana line exactly at 6 p.m. and soon recognized the familiar acrid stench of summertime Terre Haute, with its creosote plant and other aromatic industry.
I noticed the truckers were running 85-90 mph and, assuming they had good information about police patrols, joined their convoy all the way to I-465 around Indianapolis.
I dropped my sidestand in my carport at 7:25 p.m.
Realizing I still had plenty of time to make Ted Simon's lecture, I unloaded the bike, showered and changed into more civilized clothes.
I arrived at the library about 7:50 and found about 50-60 people in attendance, including about a dozen Indianapolis BMW Club members.
During the break, I introduced myself and had Ted autograph my copy of his book.
I was delighted at the turnout and gathered that he was pleased, too.
Afterward, Ted joined Tim and Linda Balough and Archey and Theresia Shearer and me at Dooley O'Toole's for drinks and munchies. Maria had arrived at my apartment, so I phoned her and she joined us at the restaurant.
It was a delightful cap to a long, but rewarding final day of the trip.
April 13, 2001: There's a tragic footnote to this story. I received the following e-mail this afternoon recounting the deaths of Wayne and Fern Connor:
The Connors were part of my Harley Family from Baton Rouge. We were members of the Harley Owner's Group, and Fern was recently elected President of the Ladies of Harley group there.
I have very sad news to share. Wayne was tragically killed in July 2000 when a truck ignored signals at a railroad crossing that his locomotive was crossing. He was thrown from the locomotive and died shortly thereafter. I now live in Houston so one of my Baton Rouge Harley family members phoned with the news. I drove from Houston to attend the wake.
Yesterday evening, April 12, 2001, I learned from my same friend in Baton Rouge that Fern died from injuries she sustained while riding her bike in South Louisiana. She failed to negotiate a curve and crossed the oncoming lane of traffic and made contact with a road sign. Her children were with her when she passed, and now, she and Wayne are together again.
Your website was interesting, and I loved the picture that you placed on there of Wayne and Fern. After getting the feeling that you were the kind of person that looks at strangers as friends you haven't met yet, I thought you might appreciate the update.