Whereupon We Rediscover Our Inner Biker Selves

July 2008

A lot of miles have rolled under the tires since our last motorcycle trip twelve years ago. For the first ten years of our marriage, traveling by motorcycle was our preferred way of transportation.  We saw Alaska, Mexico, and most of the Western U.S. two-up on our bike.   Like most everyone, though, we slowed down and grew round(er).  We gradually upgraded in size and number of wheels, getting a VW camper van and the infamous Sportsmobile.  My two wheel Biker Dude days pretty much ended way back in 1996.

Then a couple of months ago my Biker Dude inner self raised its voice as I told KR that I was riding the bike to Silverton, Colorado to attend some adventure biker convention.  I asked if she cared to come and “you’re not leaving me behind!” was her response.  Typical.

In the back of our minds we wondered if we could re-find the thrill of being two up on a bike.  I’m older, fatter, and slower now.  KR spent three months recuperating from a broken back not that many years ago.  And our bike, “Broken Arrow,” was thirteen years and 36,000 miles old.  Could this crew handle another run?

Expectations were low.

Old steed? It takes a brave man to publish a picture like this.  Preparation for our eleven-day trip consisted of pulling the old camping equipment out of the garage, trying to remember how to tie it all on to Broken Arrow (BA), and checking the tire pressure.  Since I ride BA most everyday as a commuter bike, I knew he would at least run.

Itinerary planning consisted of KR telling me we were going straight (east), not up (north) the night before our trip.  “Great,” I told the Little Woman, “but do you realize this would put us in the hottest parts of the country in July?”   It apparently didn’t register, but I wasn’t about to argue since we were going on a ride again and I long ago learned not to look a gift horse in the mouth.  I’m thinking, how bad could it get?  If we go east we could go to Prescott, Arizona and see our friends Bob and Joy Wilson on the first night.

We were ready, Rutherford/Walti style.  Which is to say, “When shit happens, we’ll deal with it.”

The answer to the above question, “how bad could it get,” is REAL BAD.   Most of the first day was spent in 120+degree heat, which made it the hottest temperature that I’ve ever been outside in.  KR came close to having a heatstroke (no kidding), saved in part by the Denny’s in Blythe, California (right).  We got lucky and were literally nursed back by the World’s Most Friendly Waitress ever to work in a place like Blythe.  We went close to 400 miles the first day, 2/3rds of which were spent in furnace-hot heat, while the remaining 1/3 was spent in a driving thunderstorm, winding up a narrow mountain road.   But we made it and stayed the night with Bob and Joy in their new place.

Our general plan was to ride northeast on our way to Flagstaff, then due east to Santa Fe, NM.  From there, we would turn north to Colorado.  We figured a couple of days.  This plan changed almost immediately as we encountered heavy rain and mountain roads again, prompting KR to issue the order, “Get me off this bike!”  Luckily, we had made it to a small mining town literally carved into an Arizona mountainside, Jerome.  Jerome was suitably gentrified, meaning lots of shops and restaurants.

We went in search of a warm room and a cold drink.

Biker Bar #1: “Spirit Room,” Jerome Arizona. This place was rock’n thanks to the Cadillac Angels band and a crowd that was definitely in the mood to party.  First time I’ve seen a Hula Hoop dancer chick.

Biker Bar #2: “Bar B Something,” Cottonwood, AZ. A couple of hours later and 10 miles down the road, we arrive at our second biker bar.  Scruffy and gruff on the outside, the place and people quickly warm up on the inside.  Left: Biker Babe amongst her crew — “Snake” on the left and Eric on the right.  KR spent two hours with Snake and Eric planning the remainder of the trip to Santa Fe. No interstates allowed.

Four Days of This: The first four days of riding looked like this– rain, wind, and thunderstorms through the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico.  The “meanest bar in Arizona”, the Wicked Well Tavern, is in the middle of the Zuni Indian reservation where there are three kinds of weather:  “hot and windy, cold and windy, and just plain cold.”  Nonetheless, it was a welcome retreat late one afternoon as we were being chased by yet another storm.  Richard, the owner, was nice enough, proudly pointing out the bullet holes in the ceiling and various newspaper articles about his notorious establishment.

Same woman? Not feeling much love for yours truly during the wind and rain.  Transformation is the result of a terrific stay in Santa Fe.  This was taken at a great restaurant called the “Rooftop Cantina.”  Best time was a Tapas bar/restaurant in which we watched Tango dancers all night.

Best hotel we’ve stayed in for quite some time:  Inn of the Anasazi in Old Town Santa Fe.  It was so great we decided to stay a whole two nights.

Beast of Burden: Bell hops and fellow guests wondered how we got everything in/on Broken Arrow.  On average, it would take us 45 minutes to pack up every morning…

Road Warriors? Come rain, wind, or heat, we deliver the mail.  Can you pick out the picture of KR sleeping?  Surprisingly, after the first day KR and I agree that everything feels the same.  We’re comfortable (relatively) and getting in a groove.

Between Durango and Silverton the roads and weather get a lot better

Moving Living Room: Small seat, great view.  KR in her perch in Colorado

On the map now. Prior to this trip we had never heard of Silverton.  This small old mining town is drop dead gorgeous in July.  The dozens of pictures we took still wouldn’t do it justice. Located in its own valley 60 miles north of Durango (itself a pretty interesting place), Silverton was the location of rally.  We spent three days there, about two more than you need to see it all 🙂

Adventure Campsite. We spent three nights camping at the Horizons Unlimited motorcycle meeting.   About 100 or so “adventurers” showed up.  KR is the only one to have figured out how to have a campfire and cook on it…

RTW Education. Perhaps the greatest surprise of the trip was how much we enjoyed the HU meeting.  For three days, we attended various presentations by RTWer’s (Round the World’ers), took part in practical clinics like how to change a tire, and watched as newbie’s rode in the dirt for the first time.  Presentations included:  “A lap of South America,” “11 years on the Road, RTW,” and an all day seminar on everything one needs to know to go around the world on a motorcycle.  Perhaps the most mind-boggling story was that of a 62-year-old woman with Parkinson’s who had never been on a motorcycle in her life.  She asked her friend, a very accomplished m/c traveler, to take her around the world on the back of his bike.  Listening to their story was truly emotional for everyone — he, she and us.

It’s still there. On the way home we try finding Route 66.  A beautiful bit still remains between Seligman and Kingman, Arizona.  We find another bit of 66 in the California desert, but recommend avoiding it as there is literally nothing on it for a hundred or so miles.  On the right, FW resting on a hay bale.  We do 900 miles in two days to get home.

Before-and-after. KR saying “let’s get going!” before our 11-day, 2,400-mile trip.   No words required for the “after” picture.

South America anyone?

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