The Real Cannonball.....Day 4
The dawn of the fourth day of The Real Cannonball finds me at another free breakfast at the Super 8 in Amarillo, Texas. I'd been up since around 5am. Everything was packed up and sitting, out in the hallway, on one of those luggage carts that they use for people who go on trips with everything they own. I, on the other hand, could have run this race with what someone could carry in a reasonably sized tank bag. The clothes that I was wearing were the exact same clothes that I'd started the race in last Saturday, except for the socks. I've got to have clean socks everyday, other than that, who cares. Since it had been pretty cold for the whole race, what I was wearing didn't smell too bad.
Breakfast at the Super 8 in Amarillo, Texas was just another motel free continental breakfast but, if you're a biscuits and gravy person, avoid this place at all costs. I'm not a biscuits and gravy guy but thought that, for a change from cold cereal or Belgian waffles, I'd try some biscuits and gravy. The biscuits were ok but the gravy tasted like, as they were making the it, they tried to add a little salt and the top fell off the salt shaker. Describing the taste as tasting like brine does not do the taste justice. I told the young lady who was working there about it. I asked if they got it out of some package or made it fresh? She said they made it fresh everyday and that she'd made that batch that very morning. I put some on a plate just so she could try it. As I was leaving the room to load the scooter, I saw her adding milk to the gravy, I guess to thin out the brine taste. If she added the milk contents of several cows she couldn't make THAT gravy eatable.
With the scooter loaded up and the skies clearing, I head back out on I-40 for my everyday routine, which you already know about.
Now, I've been through Amarillo several times so I thought I'd get a picture of Cadillac Ranch as I rode west out of Amarillo. Never saw it. I know where it is because I've been there but this time I never saw it. Maybe it was the sleep deprivation thing I mentioned. Maybe it was just brain fade. Maybe it was my trying to move the finish line closer telepathically. Anyway, now that I think about it, since there's no picture, maybe that part of the trip never happened.
I had hoped to make Kingman, Arizona by dark. Didn't happen. Since we were riding west, as soon as I hit a new state, I started checking out the mile markers. Mile markers run west to east, with #1 being on the west side of the state. As soon as I saw the first one in a state, I'd know how far I had to ride before hitting the next state. I think it was over 100 miles from Amarillo to the New Mexico line. New Mexico is around 335 miles across, with Arizona being about the same. Riding to Kingman would have made for at least a 700 mile day and I knew that just wasn't going to happen.
The weather is clear and the ride good....until Flagstaff. It's getting dark and colder. I'm thinking that, if I slow the ride down, maybe I can creep my way into Kingman, making tomorrows ride to the coast, a shorter day. My arriving in Flagstaff brings another night of riding into a town in the rain. Greeneville, TN., Amarillo, TX., and now Flagstaff, AZ.. The only town that I'd ridden into around dark where it didn't rain on me, was Hazen, AR., but then, on that day, I'd already ridden 6 hours in the rain.
Somewhere in New Mexico, there had been a really big storm front directly ahead of me. I was a huge dark cloud where you can actually see the rain falling. I was headed west, it was moving north. I was hoping that I might be able to slide by on the south side. As I started seeing drops on the windshield, I stopped under an overpass and got out all the raingear that I wasn't already wearing to fend off the cold. Have you ever tried putting on raingear in a hurricane, with a steady stream of big rigs cruising by just a few feet away? With the wind blowing to beat the band, I manage to get all bundled up. I ride on west.
Now, 9 times out of 10, when I put on raingear, it's a signal to the Universal Powers that be to make it quit raining so I ride along in the dry, sweating death with humidity. This wasn't quite that bad, but close. I think I hit about 37 more drops of before the rain quit. As it was pretty cold, there was no sweating.
As it gets darker on my ride into Flagstaff, it starts to rain. Nothing serious but rain none the less. Since it's not heavy, I decide to push on. As I ride, the rain seems to be getting heavier. Riding at 60 on a scooter, a sprinkle can seem like a downpour. And, it's getting colder, much colder.
By now, I'm getting cold. I can feel my arms shivering because I can feel that I'm twitching the handlebars back and forth. And it's still pouring. I decide that discretion is the better part of valor and start looking for a motel. All of a sudden, the rain that had been hitting the wind screen on the helmet is sticking in slushy drops. It's snowing! One of those heavy, wet, very slushy types of snow. Now, it's heavier. And it's sticking more. The scooter windshield is covered. The helmet windscreen is almost covered. Big Rigs are rumbling by, just to my left, at 80 mph or so. I'm having trouble seeing the road. The headlight looks like it's looking into a fog. More trucks rumble by. I'm afraid to take my hands off the handlebars to wipe off the windscreen so I can see. I grip the handlebars tighter, trying not to shiver and shake things too much.
Then....it's all gone. For about 1/2 mile, I must have ridden through a really cold spot where the rain turned to snow. After that 1/2 mile, I rode into a warmer spot, by at least a few degrees anyway, because the snow melted even faster than it had stuck to everything. In all my concern about how bad it would get, part of me wanted it to continue till I got somewhere to be able to take a picture. The scooter, and me, all covered in snow was a picture that I really wanted to be able to post. Here is where I say, maybe next time, but I'm really hoping that there is no next time.
With it still raining pretty good, I ride into Williams, Arizona. Williams is the southern terminus of the Grand Canyon Railroad, which I have ridden to the canyon. Once again, I find a Super 8. I wonder if these guys have a discount card? Somebody pulls out just as I drive up and I'm able to park right in front of the office. There's no covered parking here.
In the morning, this is what I find....
I had no idea how cold it had gotten there but I hadn't seen frost that thick in many, many years. I tried scraping/wiping it off but decided to just wait for the sun to peek over the trees. I didn't take a picture of it thawing out but, as it did, I kept having to rotate it because the side to the sun would thaw, leaving everything else covered in frost. It was kind of like I was barbequing the Helix I had to turn it so many times.
Another free breakfast, minus the gravy, and I was away.
Wednesday. Day 5 of The Real Cannonball.
Hopefully, today is the day that I ride into the Portofino Inn, in Redondo Beach, California. I think I'm still around 300 miles ahead of Alan but I'm not sure. He didn't post anything last night so he might be ahead of me.
My regular routine continues, as I ride out of the cold of Williams, Arizona. Everywhere headed west from Williams is warmer. By the time I pass Kingman, it's really getting warm and I have to pull over to start peeling off some of the layers of raingear and clothing that I'm still wearing.
On across the deserts of California, I'm dreaming of the finish line and not having to ride for a day or two. Since I don't have a chase vehicle, I do have to ride home to Tucson but at a much more leisurely pace than I've ridden over the past 5 days. If it rains on my way home, I'll stop, not feeling like I have to push on.
I've ridden about 5 hours when......
After riding 2,760 miles, I'm dead in the water......
The drive belt failed. As I pulled over on the shoulder, the engine was still running. A turn of the throttle revved the engine but no go. Also the engine had a funny sound to it. I think that when the engine over-revved as the belt died, it might have done some damage to the valves.
As I sat on the side of the road, waiting the good folks from Barstow Towing, I noticed that the muffler was cracked. I think the vibration of the exhaust manifold had vibrated the cracks in the muffler. Way back in Texas, the guys at Greathouse Motorsports hadn't wanted to replace the exhaust manifold gaskets as they couldn't get one of the header bolts/nuts off. They'd told me about it and I was ok with it. I'd already been there 12 days and didn't want to be delayed any longer.
So, since way back when in Texas, I'd basically been riding on the Titanic. It wasn't so much as to if it was going to fail, but when.
Up there, just 240 miles away is Redondo Beach and finish line. Just 240 miles away. Hell, I can practically smell the salt air from here!
So close.....yet so far!
It's ok, I'll get'em next year.
Tomorrow....the "In Conclusion" ride report to "America.....by Helix"..