Friday, May 25 Cortez, CO to Roxborough Park, CO – 365 miles in 7 ½ hours: This day, I changed clothes several times as I wound my way higher and higher up into the Rockies. At first, the day was clear and sunny, but soon clouds rolled in and it got colder, so I upgraded to sweater and jeans. Up and up and when I reached Telluride, ominous black clouds surrounded me and I began to wonder how “One-Eye” would handle in the snow. With no sun, the temperature plummeted amid the snow covered peaks, so a change of clothes again to windbreaker over my shirt and sweater all under a full rain jacket, rain pants and heavy Thinsulate riding gloves. But then, miraculously, the road veered away from the foreboding front and broke into blinding sunshine.

Here are two pictures taken literally 10 minutes apart. First looking into Telluride Pass and then as the road led me out of impending frostbite into a perfect day. First, Telluride Pass with the storm clouds closing in…

And then…heaven!

The rest of the trip to Denver was great. I arrived at the Hefners and had a nice chat with Diane’s 95 year young, sharp-as-a-tack Mom, Ruth while George and Diane attended their grand nephew’s high school graduation. After I’d showered and freshened up, George came back to take me to take me his sister’s house for a graduation party.

George looked great and we quickly rekindled our many years of friendship. George was the one of the primary reasons I’d decided on the University of Florida back in 1963 as well as why I became a Sigma Alpha Epsilon brother. His career in building and construction was apparent in their new beautifully finished home.

The dinner celebration gave me a chance to eat some great food that his sister Jill and her husband Jim had cooked up for the family. I know that waxing ecstatically about a “real home cooked meal”, after only two days on the road sounds ridiculous, but it sure tasted wonderful. I had seconds of everything, including desert! My diet took back seat to my desire for gratification after a couple of days of “riding along the razor’s edge on two wheels”. (Sorry, lame rationalization for pigging out).

George is a wonderful, honest and kind friend. And if Diane wasn’t so cute, sweet and funny, I’d worry about her need to have 4 (four) cats roaming the house and sneaking into sleep with me. I had a fun, but much too short visit with them.

Saturday May 26 Denver, CO to Colby, KS – 254 Miles in 4 Hours: My “Northern Route” solution started to fall apart as soon as I left the safety of the Hefner’s. Eastern Colorado shouldn’t really be part of that beautiful state. It became flat, very fast and what started out to be a nice day turned scary. With no trees and featureless prairie stretching to the horizon in all directions, there’s nothing to stop the wind on Interstate 70. Wind? Sorry, hurricane gusts.

I’d noticed online that Hurricane “Bud” was swirling off the coast of West Mexico messing with the Jet Stream.

The advancing edges apparently reached all the way to where helpless little Sam was trying to get home to North Carolina.

Now, if you’re riding a Honda Pacific Coast, one of the cool things is the entire motorcycle is enclosed in plastic. One of the not so cool things is that the entire bike becomes a massive, unyielding “sail” when the winds hit it from either side. Well I-70 goes as straight east as a ruler. And “Bud” was hurling balls of airborne energy at it (and me and “One-Eye”) from exactly 90 degrees on our right side. Now, normally with the Pacific Coast, if you have a side wind, you simply relax, let up on the handlebars and let the bike lean 5 or 10 degrees to either side and simply “heel over” like a sailboat.

I was used to sailing from my days with Daddy on the Chesapeake and Manatee River as well as during the years I owned sailboats on San Francisco Bay. I knew “heeling”.

But this challenge was nothing like that. On bays and rivers, the wind was generally consistent and you’d just heel over to port or starboard and haul ass. On I-70 it was unusual and brutal. It was giant blasts of buffeting… totally unpredictable. One second it would be calm and then a 30 mph air hammer would twist “One-Eye” over to the left… and then immediately let up.

Centrifugal force would instantly overcorrect the bike and we would slam over right in the other direction all within a second. From the rear, we must have looked like a giant “Weeble” doll weaving all over the highway.

Now imagine hours of this. Hands clinched in death grips on the handlebars with your body and bike being shoved all over the highway.

Now, normally, on a four lane divided superhighway this is uncomfortable but it isn’t dangerous. But as I left Colorado and entered Kansas, the first hour they were working on I-70 and had closed it down to two lanes with only flimsy rubber cones separating me and “One-Eye” from the oncoming lane of cars and tractor trailers, all coming toward us at 70 mph. “Bud” kept blowing us toward them. I thought it couldn’t get worse (unless it rained). But after about 3 hours of this hell, the wind actually picked UP (gusts to 40 mph). Then the wind started literally picking US up and sliding our entire 900 pounds 3 feet sideways toward the next lane. There’s nothing I could do but hold on for dear life. I figured it was time to call it a day. Actually during the last 30 minutes that I was hunkered down with my chest plastered against the gas tank trying to lower my wind profile, I honestly was going to pull into the next gas station, take a cab to the nearest airport and have that Motorcycle Transportation Service I’d first looked into come and get “One-Eye” and give it a free ride to Hendersonville…without me.

But, I was looking for adventure, wasn’t I? (And I would have never heard the end of it from Fred). So, after only 4 hours of hell, I pulled off in Colby, KS and found a Choice hotel with a pool so I could soak out the tension frozen into my body.

That night, as I was cozily in bed watching TV, the Kansas Weather Alert System broke into our favorite program “The Big Bang Theory” to warn our county that a 70 mph storm was blowing in from the south bringing blinding dust storms accompanied with quarter-sized hail. We’ll I was safe inside my “Comfort Inn”…until the power went out in the motel and the entire town…twice, for about an hour as the devil whirled and shrieked outside.

I peeked out to check on “One-Eye”…but it was GONE!. The dust storm was so dense, I couldn’t’ see a foot out the window…a tourist attraction Kansas has been famous for since we stripped all her topsoil off to farm.

Sunday May 27, Colby, KS to Blackwell, OK – 354 Miles in 5 ½ Hours: The next morning, “One-Eye” looked like it had been left out in an old field for 40 years. It was covered stem to stern with a thick coating of fine Kansas dust. Every crack, seam and switch, the seat and windshield were all brown. I was too shocked to even take a picture before I used all my motel’s clean towels to coax it back to “Honda Pearl White” from “Kansas Prairie Nightmare Brown”.

My smartphone weather still warned of high winds, but I was an “Adventure Motorcyclist”. So I persevered, suited up and took off. More hours along I-70 proved to be just more upper body isometrics trying to keep old “One-Eye” going in a semblance of a straight line and avoid both of us playing a game of “Chicken” with a 53 foot Wal-Mart truck.

Finally I gave up. I figured if I turned due south, directly into the wind, it should be better. So, half way through Kansas I took a 90 degree right on a secondary road heading for Wichita and then mercifully Oklahoma. (My wind-addled mind convinced me the wind would magically stop at the Oklahoma border.)

The rest of the day was a godsend versus the last day. The Pacific Coast was designed in a wind tunnel to be aerodynamic. And as long as the wind was coming from the front, it was. Once out of the fury, I thought back to my high school English and thought of Joyce Kilmer. Why?

“I think that I shall never see a poem so lovely as a tree”.

Trees, they make all the difference when there’s wind. They provide a needed barrier to it and make the trip much easier. Kansas has NO trees. I’m not sure what that barren state’s redeeming value is, but if it has one, I didn’t find it. My night was spent was just over the border, safe, in Blackwell, Oklahoma.

I had kept Larry and Sally Gordon up to date on my progress as I made my way toward them in Kansas City. I had already informed them I was going to be a day late when “Bud” slowed me down in western KS. But when I turned south and gave up on Kansas, I had to admit I couldn’t make it to eastern side of their fine state and what would have been an enjoyable time together. At least we’ll be able to see them in January back in Bradenton.

Monday May 28 Blackwell, OK to Conway, AR – 354 Miles in 5 ½ hours: Well, the wind didn’t stop completely in Oklahoma but it was much, much better and I started to enjoy the trip again. What impressed me about Oklahoma were the sparrows (or swifts or purple martins). As I sped through under every overpass, swarms of birds would swoosh out from their night perches and zip back and forth in front of me. Not wanting a new ornament for my helmet, I had to duck down behind the windshield as I went under each one. Man, there are a lot of overpasses in Oklahoma. I made it to Arkansas just outside of Little Rock that night.

By the way, why do they pronounce Kansas “Can’s Ass” and Arkansas “Ark Can’s Saw”? Why not “Ark Can’s Ass”? The things you occupy your mind with as you trek for hours across the country by yourself can be often be surreal…and stupid.

Tuesday May 29 Conway, AR to Lebanon, TN – 402 Miles in 6 ½ Hours: OK, now I’m making good miles once more with no wind. I’ve gotten just east of Memphis and am getting excited about seeing Jill and being home again.

But one of my benefactors Fred is upset with me because he thinks differently about motorcycling. He and Karen just finished a 9,000 mile trip on their BMW motorcycle around South America through 7 countries.

But to him, I’m just a wuss just going through 7 states on nice highways where everyone speaks English (mostly) and where gas, food and beds are easy to find.

He suggests I stop in Memphis to “See the King” and then on to Nashville and down to New Orleans to “Hear the Blues”.

I just want to get home to my loving wife and warm bed where there’s no wind.

On leaving Conway, I finally get on I-40 (which I could have taken a few miles from Peter’s in Arizona and avoided all the drama.) Remember my brilliant plan to avoid “Hot” southern routes like I-40? But I would have missed all the fabulous motorcycling and scenery in the west and the Hefners…and the neat near-death experience. Oh well, it was supposed to be an adventure, wasn’t it?

Wednesday May 30 Lebanon, TN to Hendersonville, NC – 278 Mile in 4 ¾ Hours: I wake up to dense fog. Once again I can hardly see the bike outside the motel room. Wait an hour for it to lift. It does a little, so I get on the bike and head back up to the Interstate. My visor immediately fogs over so I lift it. Bad idea. My glasses then fog over just as I’m getting to the I-40 ramp. So I slam the visor down and luckily it clears up just as I’m merging with traffic off the ramp. I guess I was too anxious to get home.

The fog lasted about an hour, but wasn’t dangerous because all the cars were taking it easier. The thick curling mist gave way to a beautiful day and perfect riding weather.

Tennessee’s Interstate 40 all from the Arkansas border in the west to the North Carolina border in the east has the smoothest, best road surface I experienced the entire trip. I soon learned how they probably financed it.

In all the previous states, I had seen 3 cop cars. As soon as I entered Tennessee at Memphis to the eastern mountains, I counted at least 30 local and state patrol cruisers picking off tourists like aardvarks pick off ants. Well, it was Memorial Week and there might have been a special bounty. But it sure kept me under the speed limit on my last leg of the adventure.

As I entered North Carolina, I honked “One-Eye’s” horn and yelled. The lush green mountains and rolling mountains welcomed me home. I took the long way over the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway. And in a few hours I was hugging Jill who had balloons out for my return and my favorite meal waiting for dinner. I parked faithful, trusty “One-Eye” by the lake and went inside to collapse.

A special thanks to my long time and very extraordinary friends Fred Walti and Jack Hetherington for your generous gift and making your old motorcycling buddy feel young again.

You are great pals and both important parts of who I am today.

Sam Hershfield, Senior Adventure Cyclist
Lake Rugby, Hendersonville, NC June 2, 2012

Monday, May 21 Hendersonville, NC to Phoenix, AZ: We locked up the cabin and piled everything into the Prius. Jill dropped me off at Greenville, SC airport (GSP) and drove on east to Folly Beach, SC for a few days with her son Darren, daughter in law Patty and grandkids Davis and Kate. Of course, Delta makes me pay $25 to check even one piece of luggage, the large duffle to PHX. As the plane was boarding, they announce they were so full, they would check any other baggage for free. So I walked on with only my helmet which drew lots of strange stares and some vicarious grins.

Jack picked me up in Phoenix and took me back to their lovely home in Scottsdale. We had a relaxing and fun evening where we rehashed old times over dinner and brought each other up to date on our families. Jack and Janet are one of the few couples that have known all my 4 wives over the decades. They met Jill on our last trip to Phoenix. Jack has been an important person in my life. He was the reason I finally left Ketchum, MacLeod & Grove, my first agency after 10 years when he got me an interview with his agency, Chicago-based Needham, Harper & Steers. It got me out of spending the rest of my ad career in beautiful downtown Pittsburgh…to beautiful downtown Dayton, Ohio (in the worst winter in its history). But it started me on a voyage through some of America’s best ad Agencies. But that’s another story. I felt really lucky to have had Jack as a good friend for many years and many jobs. Thanks Jack!

Tuesday, May 22 Scottsdale, AZ to Peoria, AZ: Still being on EST, I woke up at 5 and tiptoed around loading “One-Eye”. When he awoke, I embarrassedly asked Jack to UPS the big expensive duffle (remember: which I’d paid Delta to fly to PHX) back to NC with all the stuff I couldn’t store on or in “One-Eye”. Add on another $41.50. Brilliant pre-planning Sam!

My Google Weather search had told me that Phoenix was going to have one of the hottest days of the entire summer the day I was to take off…112 degrees. As Jack and I sat having our coffee on his calming cool patio watching all the doves, quail and hummingbirds he feeds, he read the paper and told me not to worry; it was only going to get to 108, just balmy and my brother always reminds me, “It’s a dry heat!”…so is sticking your head in an oven.

My dear brother Peter and his wife Aneth live across Phoenix in a town called Peoria. I definitely wanted to spend time with them. So my first leg was only about a half hour from Scottsdale to Peoria. I used my Verizon Navigator on my smartphone with earphones into my helmet. It worked well and when Peter called my phone to ask where I was, I told him “right at your doorstep”. He opened the door to find me there, ready for some air conditioning. I spent a very pleasant time with them and Aneth cooked us a yummy dinner. We took some of the time re-examining many of my father’s multitude of files that Peter’s been dutifully storing since Dad and Mom’s deaths. There is so much wonderful work and memories I feel there’s so much I yet have to accomplish to do his life and unique, famous career justice. But that’s another story.

Wednesday, May 23 Peoria, AZ to the Tusayan, AZ – 260 Miles in 5 ½ hours: After loading up “One-Eye” and my belly with breakfast I took off northwest out the heat to the Arizona mountains. The GPS on my brand new Verizon LG Lucid Smartphone stopped working, but that too is another story, and not a good one, but, on with the adventure. My first day was driving in the escalating Phoenix heat toward northern Arizona mountains to the Grand Canyon, which was my hoped for goal for Day One.

Jack, Fred and I had been to the Grand Canyon on one or more motorcycle trips. Here’s Jack lying face down at the “Four Corners” monument (CO/AZ/UT/NM) with each limb in a different state. We were such characters then.

I wound my way up through Prescott (Jack made sure I pronounced it correctly “Presskit”. It became cooler as I gained altitude and I even had to put on a windbreaker as the mountain air thinned out. From the curving mountain road, the shimmering Arizona desert lay far below. It felt good to be back on a motorcycle. “One-Eye” hummed along smartly (and even “growled” a little) as I cut through the mountain passes as I remembered what Fred taught me: how to pick a line through a curve, let up on the handlebars and let the bike lean into the turn and apply throttle to pull out of the bend. I smiled and thanked Fred and Jack for their gift with each turn.

At the top of that range was the old mining town of Jerome built vertically up in the mountains, quaint and realistic with a dramatic view down into the next valley. As I wound out of that valley, I curved through the beautiful Oak Creek Canyon with a roaring river and sweet smelling pines and cottonwoods on both sides. One of the best motorcycle roads of the trip. But, there’s more…

At the top of Oak Creek Canyon was the very different and even more dramatic scenery of Sedona. I’d been there several times before, but getting there in the late afternoon, the sun was illuminating the famous impressive Red Rocks that encircle the town. Art studios seem to take up every other store on the main street, pretty fabulous place to visit. But you’d better off leaving your American Express card behind.

I kept climbing up through passes to Flagstaff which is at 7000 feet. I’d climbed over a mile vertically since leaving Peter’s. As I turned onto the main street I was stunned by the impressive range of the 12,000 foot snow-capped San Francisco Peak Mountains to the north teasing me about my next day’s ride.

I’d hoped to get to the Grand Canyon my first day and I did…almost. I got to Tusayan, the tourist town at the entrance to the park. I’d been to the Grand Canyon several times and didn’t really need to go again…or so I thought.

Doubting I’d get that far, I’d brilliantly hadn’t made a reservation. So I stopped at a few Tusayan motels. All booked. One of the clerks informed me high season had started the week before and they were all booked up. But maybe, just maybe the Best Western might have a room. I crammed my helmet back on and hauled ass across the street to get the last room in town. I paid $144 for it. Of course, not one of my Choice chain and twice my “budget” and definitely nothing special, but hey, it was a room and I’d ridden a long time since Phoenix. So, I treated myself to a steaming hot bath to soak my tired old body after sitting in the saddle all day. It felt great and gave me a daily solution (sorry, bad pun) to keep my aging aching joints and parts from making the rest of the trip a pain the ass…literally.

Thursday, May 24: Tusayan, AZ to Cortez, CO – 300 Miles in 6 hours: Starting early is key to a trip like this and my body’s mixed up time zones made that easy. The second day I had to put on warmer clothes in the nippy mountain air. By the way, motorcycles eventuate cold or heat at high speeds, even though I’m cowering behind a large windshield. The wind, blistering or freezing curls its way around the Plexiglas and supercharges up your sleeves, under your jacket or up your pant legs. But cool was highly preferable to the microwaving my body had gotten in lower Arizona’s 100+ heat.

Since I’d seen the Grand Canyon, I thought I’d just continue on AZ Route 64 out of Tusayan on to Colorado. But, guess what? The only way to Colorado on 64 was to go through Grand Canyon Park. Cars are charged $25 for entrance; as a motorcycle, I was only charged $12 just to use the road. But since I was early in the morning before the throngs of other tourists like me arrived, I spent some time walking around the south rim. I’d forgotten how spectacular this wound of nature was, truly breathtaking. I thought of Annie as I absorbed the beauty and wished she’d been with me…at least for this part.

The road out of the park was gorgeous, made even better with the cool, crisp weather. I rode for miles and miles through the pine forest with the Grand Canyon on my left until the Colorado River dropped down and cut intricate patterns into the plateau that led toward Colorado.

But before I got to Colorado, there was a side trip I wanted to make again up into Utah to Monument Valley. Driving into it is hard to describe. You’re in the barren desert and in the distance you see what look like small statues.

As you get closer you see they are massive rocks carved by wind and water to leave an art gallery unmatched anywhere in the world. Some of the eroded mountains look as if a sculptor had carved them into likenesses of giant throned kings. Others seemed to be impregnable fortresses rising hundreds of feet straight up.

What struck me all along, at least in the west, was the diversity of types of rocks, terrain and foliage. From uniquely carved granite to sandstone, from vertical to absolutely flat, from sagebrush blowing across the road to giant stands of pine and gorgeous aspens.

Soon I was climbing up again into the Rockies and spent my second night on the road in Cortez, Colorado.

Read Part 4…

 

The Process: Unlike other trips, I thought I’d plan this trip day-to-day. So the first thing, after my sumptuous Choice Hotel “hot” breakfast was to look at the map and pick a destination and route.

The next step, suiting up (and un-suiting for each stop) is quite the chore.

  • First the clothes, which based on the weather projected for the day often changed dramatically requiring a change (or even two) mid day.
  • Light windbreaker or long sleeve shirt and light “transformer” pants for hotter days. (Never shorts or short sleeves due to potential for serious sun and wind burn, to say nothing of what would happen in a fall).
  • Jeans and heavy long shirt or jacket in the cooler morning or mountain stretches.
  • Then socks and tall leather zip up and velcroed motorcycle boots. (Never short shoes because ankle support is critical when you put your left foot down at each stop heeling over and balancing a 2 wheeled machine weighing almost 900 pounds with you, gas and luggage).
  • Then ear plugs (Wind noise, even with the best full face helmet with the face shield locked down can be tiring at 75+ mph all day).
  • Then the helmet, locking the chin strap buckle and snapping the strap on a clip (So it doesn’t flap around and beat you senseless).
  • Then glasses (with clip on sunglasses in addition to the dark tinted face shield, necessary when riding directly into the sun in the morning sun as I traveled due East).
  • Finally light riding gloves. Whew! I’m tired again just writing this.

Luggage had its own process.

  • First, every night each of the three bags had to be unmounted and unpacked to expose toiletries, next day’s clothes, electronics like netbook, cell and computer charging cords.
  • The next morning everything had to be repacked, placing the previous day’s clothes in the dirty clothes bag and clean ones in the clean clothes bag.
  • Then, refilling up the storage bag that went inside the bike’s right trunk. (The left side was for rain suit and heavier clothes).
  • Then strapping on the back duffle bag with two bungee cords. Then clipping on the tank bag with four quick clips already mounted to the gas tank.
  • Then put in the key, hit the ignition, pull in the left hand clutch lever, click the left foot-operated transmission down into first gear (it has 5 forward gears and no, it doesn’t have a reverse) then let out the clutch.
  • And I was finally on my way.

For each gas stop I had to:

  • Have to put the side stand down first, get off, turn off the engine, take off your gloves, glasses, then helmet, pull the entire bike up on the heavy stable center stand, undo the rear two quick clips to move the tank bag out of the way of the gas compartment door, open the gas cap and fill the bike.
  • (Making sure NOT to let it overflow all over the bike). I used high octane 93 grade all the way. I could really feel a difference in pickup versus 89 grade.
  • Then clean the bugs off the windshield and face shield.
  • Then reverse the process and ride for another hour or so only to repeat it all over again.

The Communications: Smartphones make it all easier these days. I called Jill every night to reassure her she wasn’t a widow and tell her about my day’s trip. I also Skyped Fred (on my new phone, we could see real time video of each other) and I called Jack and other friends and family to give them updates. I also used it for weather, navigation, restaurants and to make motel reservations.

The Shopping: When you haven’t ridden for a decade and moved around the world, most of your motorcycle stuff is sold, lost or rotten. Remarkably, most states I was travelling through don’t require helmets. But I didn’t think it was fair to make Jill have to feed me through a tube, change my Depends and wipe off my drool. That will come soon enough…So I promised I’d wear a helmet.

Much to my dismay, I found my very expensive helmet from my old motorcycling days was a smelly, mildewed, mess filled with a hornet’s nest in the storage shed and useless. When I started shopping I found that choosing the right one is a hell of a lot more complex these days with many a myriad of formats, styles, brands, colors, graphics, levels of Department of Transportation/Snell safety ratings and prices (from $50 to over $600).

So, I bought a conservative solid grey “safe” full face helmet (versus one of the silly Nazi WWII helmets you see Harley riders wearing, or Beanies that only cover the very top of your skull, or the high tech modulars that flip up so you can drink your Starbucks without de-helmeting or ¾ helmets that don’t protect your chin).

My expensive old Triumph motorcycle boots had suffered through too many baking summers and freezing winters in storage units all over the country and were falling apart but salvageable with a little black duct tape. Classy aren’t they?

I unearthed my long underwear which I might need in the mountains. But my neat rain suit now had holes in it (didn’t know moths liked plastic). And my two old serious motorcycle jackets were black and heavy and would be oppressive in the desert. In addition, as I’d decided that to increase my chance of survival, I now needed Hi-Visibility clothes, so I bought a new lighter weight two piece rain suit with 3M reflective stripes to make me stand out.

As usual, I totally over packed and ended up with two big duffle bags full of clothes, gear and my helmet. My plan was to put as much as I could in the trunk and on the bike, strapped onto the passenger seat behind me or in the tank bag strapped in front of me. I planned to throw out the older duffle in Phoenix. No such luck!

First, I forgotten the size of the Pacific Coast and the larger, newer duffle was simply too big and blocked my rear view mirrors. So I’d have to use the crappy older one and leave behind the cool one and some of my more unnecessary clothes and gear in Phoenix.

The bike: Jack had kept “One-Eyed Jack” (named ignominiously after a harmless “tip-over” that left one side light damaged on one of our early long distance rides together) in fabulous shape. With less than 11,000 miles in almost a quarter of a century, it was virtually a new bike. Here’s a picture of me and Jack with “One-Eye” all loaded up as I leave his house on my adventure.

Jack was kind enough to have it fully serviced before I got there. But even that was a challenge. It seems that none of the modern Honda motorcycle dealers will touch a bike that’s 23 years old and that hasn’t been made by Honda for almost two decades. All the Phoenix authorized dealers refused to service it. So I joined the IPCRC (Internet Pacific Coast Rider’s Club) and sent a plaintive cry out on the owners’ forum.

I immediately found a highly recommended independent service guy in Phoenix named “Frenchie” at Cyclewerks of Tempe. He was great! He checked the tires, engine, replaced all of “One-Eye’s” fluids, filters and tightened everything. He” then declared it fit for the trip across the country.

Of course I had to insure the bike (Progressive had the best coverage) and get it registered in North Carolina (Easy when your pal Jack sends you the notarized AZ title). Meanwhile, Jill searched for a life insurance policy for $100 million in case I became a hood ornament on an 18-wheeler somewhere in mid-Oklahoma.

I was set to ride.

Read Part 3…

 

Two of my best friends, Fred Walti and Jack Hetherington, who I’d worked with at various ad agencies over the last 4 decades secretly gotten together and gave me a gift: An “old” motorcycle that Jack had owned for years. He’d decided to sell it and he and Fred conspired to get me straddling a two wheeler again since we’d ridden together for years and I had fallen out of the “biking brotherhood”. It had been about 10 years since I’d owned a motorcycle.

My Love Affair with Motorcycles: I’ve owned and enjoyed many over the years, starting in 1964 at the University of Florida when our new little family’s only form of transportation was a tiny single cylinder 80cc Yamaha YZ80. But in 1967, with Susie working one job and me two it allowed us to move up to a “giant” 100cc two cylinder. Either was an awkward mode of transportation for a young couple with a baby.

Then, in the late 60’s, following the move to Pittsburgh for my first advertising job and unconscionable salary (I think it was $8,800 per year), I bought a “real bike”, a 500cc BMW R50. Interestingly, those same years, we also owned a BMW 2002 coupe (which our combined BMW automotive/motorcycle dealer loved!).

Jack Hetherington was working at the same agency and had a new Honda CB 350 in those early days. We young advertising “Mad Men” often rode around the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside together.

In the early 70’s, when my ad agency transferred me across the country to Los Angeles, my Japanese client, Yamaha Motor, felt embarrassed when I showed up on a German bike at their headquarters for meetings. So they graciously loaned me a new Yamaha of my choice every year I managed their account. First was a high tech, dual overhead cam TX 500 2 cylinder, then a XS2 650 which was modeled after the famous old Triumph Bonneville, but totally redesigned, to start and run consistently, not leak oil and have the electrics that actually worked.

Finally I had their largest bike at the time, the TX 750. I’d never had so much power. They were great bikes and a great client.

1971 Yamaha TX 500

1972 Yamaha 650 XS2

1973 YAMAHA TX 750

Sadly, I had to give them all up when my agency moved us back across the country to Washington, DC. Over the next decade we moved back to Pittsburgh, to Dayton, New York, Boston and San Francisco. During all those years, my bike was a very unique BMW R65LS, a 650cc “café racer” styled horizontally opposed twin cylinder.

When I finally ended up in LA again, our agency had originally represented the Honda account. It was there I saw a print ad for what was the sexiest bike I thought I had ever seen: the brand new 1989 Honda Pacific Coast.

It was an 800cc V-twin touring bike, configured just like a Harley, but with a few differences: It was totally “faired”, meaning it had a sleek, thermoplastic body surrounding it so you couldn’t see the engine. Honda had its car division design a fairing that was aerodynamic and amazingly included a built in, waterproof, lockable TRUNK that could hold two helmets or a briefcase or even groceries!

And unlike a Harley, it was whisper-quiet, technologically advanced with liquid cooling, hydraulically adjusting valves, front disc brake, automobile-style gauges and switches (including self-cancelling turn signals) and featured a driveshaft instead of an oily chain.

Honda had created it for the first-time rider Yuppie who had too much money and the desire for a high tech, maintenance-free motorcycle you could just jump on and ride. It was a great concept, but America was just beginning the Harley revival. Most motorcyclists wanted to see, hear and feel the throb of the old retro, totally exposed, and highly chromed V-twin engine that had been around since the turn of the century. Its detractors (usually Harley Riders) often scoffed at the Pacific Coast and gave it derogatory names like “Porta-Potty on Wheels” or “Scooter on Steroids” (Because it would go 105 mph). The PC’s death knell was that Honda didn’t adequately judge the power of the retro bike wave. On top of that, they priced it at over $8600 which was one hell of a lot of money those days. You could buy a car for that back then. So, they originally cancelled the PC’s production after the 1990 model year. But a growing rabid and powerful owner group convinced them to bring it back from 1994 until 1998 when they retired it forever. There has never been a bike like it since.

I was enchanted and bought one of the early ‘89s in white (they only came in one color each model year). I named it “Whitey” and put many miles on it, including a solo trip from Los Angeles to Alaska and many trips with my friend and co-worker Fred Walti.

Naturally, Fred was jealous of my “Adventure Cycle” so he bought a red 1990 Pacific Coast which he named “Ruby”. Fred was an ex motorcycle racer and one hell of a rider. I learned much of what I now know about how to ride from him.

When the Pacific Coast was reintroduced in the 1995 model year in black, we traded our ’89 and ‘90 for two new ones… together on the same day. Over the following years, we took many trips all over the west, to Baja and even camped out on a three week long tour around the entire Yucatan peninsula with our wives visiting the Mayan/Aztec ruins.

Jack Hetherington also lusted after our Pacific Coasts and while he lived in Chicago, he bought a 1989 similar to my first one. In later years when we all lived in Los Angeles, Fred, Jack and I took trips to places like Denver and the Rockies on our three Pacific Coasts.

 

After years as a Pacific Coaster, much to Fred’s dismay, I traded my PC for a sleek, powerful, very fast new Triumph Trophy 1200 four cylinder. But after I bought it, my years living in Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai and New York, left me little time for motorcycling and finally I sold it and ended almost 35 years of motorcycling…or so I thought.

 

 

 

 

Fred never forgave me for leaving the Pacific Coast family and still owns his “Black Beauty” to this day. Neither are particularly pretty or in good shape, but they’ve stayed loyal to each other. Here’s proof.

 

 

Jack kept his PC until after he retired to Scottsdale, AZ and rode it occasionally. But this 23 year old bike only had 10,575 miles on it when Jack finally decided to sell it. He called Fred and me and asked what we thought it was worth. A few months later, to my shock and excitement, they went in together to give me a gift in my 67th year, Jack’s Pacific Coast. All I had to do was to get it from Phoenix back to in Hendersonville, NC where we spend summers at our cabin. So finally, here’s the adventure you’ve be patiently waiting to read. First, the details of everything that went into making this journey.

WTF? My first reaction was to be astounded by such an expensive and thoughtful gift from my two dear old motorcycle buddies. The second was concern that it had been such a long time since I’d ridden and I feared my stamina and reflexes weren’t what they’d use to be. So I looked into having the bike shipped from AZ to NC. It wasn’t bad (about $500) door to door. But Fred got angry at me and shamed me into riding it all the way.

The Passengers: Jill and I may have dated in high school, but we lived most of our lives separately with others for 40 years. So she never saw or was part of my motorcycle life. And over the years, she’s never been a motorcycle rider.

I think this was one of the only times she was on a motorcycle. Our friend Bill Mullis loaned us one of his Harley’s for a short NC ride. When I told her I’d decided to ride the bike back, we confirmed it wasn’t something she’d be comfortable with as a passenger. But she was wonderful and encouraged me to go alone. A supportive wife, especially in an adventure as potentially dangerous as this trip is something I’m so thankful for with Jill. So I was going alone…until I told my daughter Annie about it. (Remember the little baby on the Yamaha on the first page?)

Annie’s now 45 and going through a “mid-life adventure phase”. She literally jumped through the phone at the chance for a “Travels with Daddy” adventure on the back of a motorcycle across the U.S. We both got excited…for a while.
After a week, I started worrying about what would happen to my beautiful daughter (on the right), her partner Betsy, and my grandchildren Cooper and Sadie if we had an accident and something happened to her. If I survived, I’d feel horribly responsible. So I called her and apologized for getting her excited only to dash her hopes of a chance to see the Grand Canyon for the first time plus the unique chance and way for us to spend time together.

But, after parts of this trip, I called her and told her how happy she should be she didn’t come on an “adventure” that turned out to have a few very uncomfortable and dangerous days…I hope she forgives me.

The Route: So I started planning my trip. Google Maps said it would be just 31 hours to ride it the most direct route straight back from Phoenix on Interstate 40. Now, in my younger years, I’d done as much as over 1,000 miles in one day riding straight from Seattle to LA at 85 mph on Interstate 5. But that was LONG time ago when my body was much younger. So I decide to take it easier and safer. If I could stand 6 hours in the saddle, I might make about 400 miles per day. The PC has a 4.2 gallon tank and gets about 50 miles a gallon. But, in deference to my aging back and ass, I planned to fill up, re-hydrate (and, of course, de-hydrate) every 80-100 miles.

Also, it was summer and wasn’t it just too damned hot on the southern routes like I-10 and I-40? And on top of that, I wanted to ride in the Rockies again.

So, I came up with what I thought was a brilliant way to avoid the heat. I planned a big detour going straight north from Phoenix and then east, adding almost an additional 1,000 miles to the trip.

But, as a plus, I’d get to visit my old high school, college and fraternity pal, George Hefner and his wife, Diane south of Denver. Further east, I could visit  another high school friend, Larry Gordon and his wife Sally outside of Kansas City, Kansas.

This turned out to be a BAD decision given the unique weather patterns that were hitting the US and Mexico the week I took off…More on that later.

The Accommodations: I decided to pick one motel chain and get frequent sleeper rewards. I nether needed nor wanted to pay for Ritz-Carltons each night when all I required was a shower and a bed.

So I chose Choice Hotels, an account my agency Grey Worldwide had represented. It had many different brands to chose from (Econolodge, Quality Inn, Comfort Inn, etc.) guaranteeing me a room in most towns.

My goal was to stay in the $70 range. As I learned, depending on the brand and age of motel I stayed in, the quality of my actual accommodations was wide. Nothing scary, but some rooms had definitely “been ridden hard and put away wet”. But some were quite nice with big screen TVs, pools, hot breakfasts, business centers and fitness rooms (no, after 8 hours riding each day I didn’t work out, even though I packed my gym clothes… with good intentions).

Read Part 2…