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Old 05-05-2004, 10:07 PM   #46
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26th March

After an overdose of Harley Davidson yesterday, I decided to have a bike free day and spent most of it doing various chores and sorting out my laptop (treated it to a complete memory laundry, disk scan, de-frag and bought it a cordless mouse;)). That evening Julie, Arch and I met up with their friend Rick at a new restaurant in the centre of Houston…



…The Aquarium. This place is amazing. It’s been fitted out like a set from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and is fitted with a series of fish tanks, holding over half a million gallons of water – including a column in the centre of a spiral staircase over 50 feet in height. The displays are excellent…



...and you can get very close to the fish – here’s Julie saying hello to some Stingrays…



The restaurant is superb. It’s a seafood menu, for those who don’t mind being stared at by the cousins of those they are eating :P The portions are huge (this is Texas, after all) – this is a crab & avocado starter…



…and the food is absolutely first rate – I hope the Red Snapper watching me eat didn’t recognise any of their relatives…



After dinner we continued our tour of the fish tanks,



before getting on a train and going through the final exhibit – a shark tank. The fairground type train stops inside a plexiglass tunnel which goes through a vast shark tank. The residents eye us as they lazily swim around us…



Afterwards we walk back to the car, looking at the lights of downtown Houston.

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Old 05-05-2004, 10:07 PM   #47
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27th – 28th March

Over the weekend, Arch and I start planning where I should head for on Monday morning when I depart. On Saturday evening, Julie has a party for her work colleagues and friends at the house. Whilst preparing, I’m introduced to Ghettopoly, a game for all the family



‘Passing Go’ is slightly different…



…as is ‘Supertax’…



The next evening (after a slow, quiet Sunday afternoon), whilst Arch and I plan my immediate future…



…the lovely Julie prepares us dinner.

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Old 05-05-2004, 10:10 PM   #48
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Round the (Big) Bend

29th March

Woke to a wet Monday morning. Never mind – it’s forecast to clear later in the West, and that’s where I’ll be heading. I pack the bike and say my goodbyes to Arch. Julie left for work early and has left a note and a ‘peace’ medallion to take on my trip – I’m very moved by this gesture. Julie and Arch – and Warren – have been fantastically hospitable to me and I’m very sad to be moving on. They have become firm friends and I hope we’ll one day meet up again…

I ride off into a light drizzle and get on Interstate 10 – the highway which runs EW across the entire country, from Jacksonville, Florida to Los Angeles. I’m once again struck by the sheer scale of Texas. If I were to ride, now, from Houston to Los Angeles, the halfway point would be El Paso – 750 miles away – still in Texas…

I stop at Sealy to fill up with fuel and have lunch at a truck-stop.



…where I order the special from Bonnie (really!) the waitress (wearing the pink top, above)…



Chicken fried steak (not chicken, but beefsteak fried in a chicken flavoured batter), fried okra, macaroni cheese – and ‘sweet tea’ which is iced tea with sugar in it – the staple cold drink in the southern USA.

I get back on I-10 and keep pressing West. I get off at Luling. Something tells me that they farm Watermelon around here…



…I ride on North-West, passing a somewhat disconcerting advert for a skydiving school (slogan - “There’s no such thing as a perfectly good airplane”)…



…until I get to San Marcos Airport, where I visit the Mid Texas Squadron of the Confederate Air Force. Weirdly the CAF has just been re-named the Commemorative Air Force – apparently this is more politically correct :



These guys restore and fly old aeroplanes – lots of old aeroplanes. I remember hearing that they are something like the 12th biggest Air Force in the world… They have a B29 Superfortress, a B17, a B24, as well as this B25 Mitchell and simply dozens of other WWII ‘Warbirds’. The San Marcos detachment has about 8 or 9 aircraft and a small museum, mostly commemorating the B25 Doolittle raid on Tokyo in 1942. They also have a couple of Japanese aircraft, which took part in the film ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’



I ride on – the weather has cleared and it’s now a beautiful day – bright sunshine and 72º F. I ride along Highway 80 “The Devil’s Backbone” – a well surfaced road of long sweeping bends.



The landscape here has changed. The climate is more arid and the vegetation includes cactus and mesquite bushes. I stop at a picnic area – the covers over the tables demonstrate how powerful the midday sun in summertime can be. If you leave your car parked in direct sunlight, it can buckle your dashboard…



I approach Kerrville to stop for the day.



And check into the Best Western. Tomorrow I’ll be starting to head South West towards Big Bend…

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Old 05-05-2004, 10:11 PM   #49
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30th March

I wake feeling thoroughly refreshed. Today I plan to do some riding in the local area – there are some excellent and scenic roads just West of Kerrville – then start to press towards Big Bend.
I eat the complimentary breakfast in the diner next door and wonder whether people are over-tipping the waitress – this is her car…



I’m on the road for 0900. It’s a beautiful morning, with hardly a cloud in the sky. It’s already 72º F and it promises to reach 85 or so later in the day. I ride through pleasant undulating roads. The region is semi-desert and it reminds me very much of countryside I’ve ridden through in southern Spain. March has been an unusually wet month, however, and the desert plants are taking full advantage of it with vivid green coloured new growth everywhere.



I soon start climbing into the hills. The road is cut into the side of the slope and I’m having great fun flinging the Adv about.



I notice that someone has set a church into the side of a hill – it perches precariously above a dried river bed, some 50 feet below…



…when suddenly I meet someone coming the other way, having as much fun as me!



This is Mike Hoskins, from near Chicago. He comes down here each winter to do some riding – he’s just come from Big Bend, my eventual destination, and says I’ll not be disappointed. We examine each other’s bikes, bullshit a little, and then go our separate ways. Just before Mike rides off, a deer wanders across the road ahead of him…



…I carry on following the route that Arch and I worked out on Sunday night. I arrive at Bracketville at 1300 and have a Mexican lunch in the town’s diner. Del Rio is only 24 miles up the road, but I don’t feel tired and I’m really enjoying the riding. It’s 86º F, but the heat is dry and therefore manageable, so I decide to press on towards Big Bend, some 260 miles distant, and see what happens. I join Highway 90 and head West. 90 is an excellent road – it has a 75mph speed limit, but I found myself riding with the needle pointing at the road number, rather than the limit.;) After half an hour or so, a flurry of signs and cones makes me drag the speed down and then stop at a check being conducted by the Border Patrol…



They are very polite and examine my passport and visa before wishing me a safe onward journey. Since I have their attention, I ask whether it’s going to be possible to re-new my 6 month visa in Canada and re-enter for a further few months. Apparently it is, and I should have no problem doing so – excellent!
I continue and, a little while later, cross the Pecos River…



…to the home of one of the Old West’s most colourful characters, the self-styled ‘Judge’ Roy Bean. An eccentric saloon owner, Bean appointed himself as the ‘Law West of the Pecos’. His reputation is as a ‘Hanging’ Judge, but this seems to be largely legendary, as there is no record of him hanging anyone. He developed a fixation on a music hall singer and royal concubine, Lily Langtry. He went as far as building an ‘Opera House’ (= hut :P) to entice her to visit, as well as re-naming the town Langtry. Remarkably, in 1904, ‘Jersey Lily’ actually came to visit the town, but they never met - Bean died less than a year earlier, having contracted pneumonia in his mid 70s…



There is now a free visitors centre at the site of his preserved ‘Courthouse’. It’s well stocked with various Old West memorabilia and manned by very knowledgeable staff.
I’m still feeling great, so I press on to Sanderson where I stop for a drink & re-fuel. I decide to press on all the way to Big Bend. It’ll mean a long day, which I’d not planned for, but it feels right and changing destinations like this is one of the main advantages of travelling solo. 90 is almost deserted now, and I keep up a steady 90 towards the lowering sun.



Soon I’m turning left towards Big Bend, down Highway 385. The booth at the entrance to the National Park is closed, but I slow to the posted 45mph speed limit and lift my visor. There is a sudden smell of honey – the recent rain has caused the wildflowers and cacti to blossom and their scent as evening approaches is amazing…



I crest a rise and see 3 wild pigs, which have been rooting around at the side of the road, take to their heels and disappear into the brush as I approach. The distant hills are suddenly getting close and they are spectacular



I ride up to the Chisos Mountain Lodge, not holding out much hope that they’ll have a room as I haven’t reserved one and, as expected, they’re full. I get back on the bike and, narrowly missing a jackrabbit - it’s getting close to sunset and the wildlife is becoming active - ride the 22 miles to Study Butte (pronounced Stew-dee Beaut), where I get a room in the Mission Lodge for an exorbitant $70. I turn the engine off and work out the mileage as the engine ticks and plinks its way back towards a more normal temperature… 511 miles – I feel like I could do it again, but settle for a shower, a cheeseburger and a quiet beer instead…

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Old 05-05-2004, 10:13 PM   #50
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31st March

Another great day. Woke before 7 and went outside to be greeted by a gin clear day with no cloud. For breakfast I order ‘Huevos Rancheros’, a Mexican dish which, like most food from that country, looked like it had been travelling at high speed when it hit the plate. It’s very tasty, however, and it sets me up for the morning’s ride. I set off at 0815 and head North up the 118 – I’m heading for Terlingua Ranch, which has been recommended to me by Arch, Julie and Warren as the place to stay around here. The only reason I didn’t try for accommodation there last night is that it’s a bit remote. Eighteen miles up the road I turn right and start heading East towards the Ranch. The road is rough asphalt, but I can maintain 20-30mph quite happily on it. 3 miles from the Ranch, the ‘pavement’ ends abruptly and I’m riding along a rough stony track, with washboard corrugations. After a while I arrive at the office…



Yes, they have a room, $42 per night – excellent! I book in for 2 nights. The rooms are set out in fours as separate cabins – I’m in No 32 and I ride up the track to empty the contents of my panniers into the room before leaving. I ride back down to where the pavement starts, but instead of carrying on to the 118, I turn right, down another dirt road. Arch has told me about this road – it runs for 23 miles and joins the road from Marathon, Highway 385, which I came down yesterday evening.



At first the going is relatively easy, if a little rough from the corrugations. I see plenty of wildlife, including a coyote (which looks like a large fox) which runs parallel to the road for a few seconds. Soon, though, the going starts to get a little rougher…



…as soft sand begins to make an appearance. Now I’ve no doubt many of you off-road gods reading this are wondering what the problem is, but, as an off-road novice, the front wheel washing out scares the poo out of me. I slowly paddle my way through several stretches of soft sand – it’s clearly areas where a temporary river has formed in the recent rains. After a while it becomes easy to spot the areas of sand in advance, and I’m able to make relatively good time. It’s getting warm and the exertion is making me sweat – time to try out my latest purchase, a ‘Camel-Back’ water carrier – carries 2 litres of water in a small haversack with a drinking pipe which sits on your shoulder. It works as advertised and I continue to use it throughout the day. Eventually, I’m back on the 385 and smooth tarmac, feeling rather pleased with myself at not dropping the bike…



After a short breather I turn right and head, once again, towards the National Park visitors centre which I visited last night.



I arrive, looking like a character from a Western, and clump my dusty way to an available table in the café. The waitress immediately asks me what I’d like to drink. I ask her for ‘Sweet Tea’ and she brings me a glass and a jug “You look like you’re going to need that, honey” :P. I eat an a unmemorable lunch, during which time I discover that the wild pigs I saw yesterday were, in fact, Javelina (pronounced Hah Veh LEE Nah) and are not related to pigs, but are a separate species, having fewer teeth and straight tusks. So now you know too. I get back on the bike and ride down towards Rio Grande Village…



…a campsite 20 miles to the South. It’s very warm now – the thermometer at the café was registering 88º F. Three Mule Deer cross the road at a leisurely pace just ahead of me. The road South is fantastic, with the distant cliffs on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande a spectacular backdrop.



The cactus are still in bloom and their scent is everywhere. Eventually I reach the end of the road, Boquillas Canyon.



I sit for a while, listening to the complete silence, broken only by the irregular tinkle of the engine cooling and the occasional buzz of a passing insect. The temperature soon reminds me it’s time to be moving, though, and I head back the way I’ve just come from. As I pass the turning to the visitors centre, I start down the road I travelled last night. It’s a completely different view in full daylight and I stop to marvel at how far I can see. As is always the case, the photo doesn’t come close to capturing the grandeur of the scenery…



As I continue towards Study Butte, a coil of wire lying in the middle of the road suddenly uncoils, straightens and winds off into the scrub on the right side of the road in a flash of reddish copper. I stop to refuel at last night’s motel and buy a cold six pack of beer, before pressing North to Terlingua. I turn up the rough asphalt road and note with some amusement, that I’m now doing 50-60 mph, as opposed to my 20-30 this morning – the off-roading has clearly done my confidence some good. I eventually get to my cabin after 200 miles riding and, whilst waiting for the shower to reach the right temperature, open a beer.

Note to self: Always allow tinned beer to stand after riding over corrugated roads…
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Old 05-05-2004, 10:14 PM   #51
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1st April

Didn’t surface until 10ish. For some reason, there’s a Mariachi Band playing in my head. Oh yes – it’s all coming back to me now… The power went off at 1830 yesterday, so I wandered down to the restaurant to find out what was happening, to be told that the whole valley was out. The chef, Jason, offered to make sandwiches and, in company with Chris, from Rhode Island, and his family, I agreed. We sat outside as the evening drew on, when we suddenly discovered that the draught beer was still on. After several pitchers of cold Bud, Jason, unexpectedly finding himself with a night off, went to his trailer and brought back some tequila and scotch. My recollection gets a little hazy after that…

Never mind – a couple of Nurofen and a shower get me feeling better and, after a Texas Omelette (like an ordinary one, but bigger) I’m riding the dirt road down to the 118. I turn right and head North towards the town of Alpine, some 60 miles away. The weather has changed and, although it’s still warm, a breeze from the South is keeping it bearable. The road runs as straight as an arrow for miles, but the clouds on the distant horizon look threatening…



After some excellent curves, the road suddenly drops to the right and Alpine appears on the flat valley floor below.



I ride through the town and push East towards Marathon, where I turned off for the National Park 2 days ago. To my left the clouds I saw earlier are depositing some serious rain 15 miles North. I get the occasional couple of drops and put the ‘shower cap’ on the tank-bag as a precaution. Thankfully the wind is from the South, and I don’t get wet. After filling up with fuel at Marathon, I ride South down the 385 again, but, just before entering the park, turn left down the 2627.



This road leads to an abandoned mine, 29 miles away…



…which is on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande. Post Sep 11th, security precautions have dictated that the bridge across the Rio Grande now be closed…



…making this a 29 mile dead-end. By the bridge is a payphone. Without much cause for optimism, I pick up the handset and, to my surprise, get a dialling tone. I ring my girlfriend - trying to describe where I am…



I ride back to the Ranch – on the way, just before the junction with the 385, a snake chooses to slither in the wrong direction as I approach, and I run it over. I’m not sure what kind of snake it was (reddish copper in colour, about 3 feet long – similar to the one I saw yesterday), but prudence dictated I didn’t go back and check to see if it was OK…
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Old 05-05-2004, 10:16 PM   #52
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2nd April

Woken by a massive crash of thunder some time in the early hours, followed by a downpour of rain that lasted under a minute! By the time I got up at 0900, the only trace that it had happened were the rain marks in the dust on my bike. The sky is cloudy, though and, over to the West it looks threatening – and West is where I’m heading – I put on my waterproofs as a precaution…

I settle my bill at the Ranch office and head off, riding the access road more slowly on the now fully loaded Adv. I stop at the Longhorn Café for a gargantuan breakfast, before filling up at $2.08 :eek: per gallon and heading off down Highway 170 towards Presidio. The road first takes me to the ‘Ghost Town’ of Terlingua. It used to be a mining town and, when the mine paid out, the town dried up & died. After a while it became a tourist attraction and, as is the American way, people started setting up businesses there. So now, it’s a ghost town with nearly every building occupied…



Still, I’m rather taken with what one resident has poetically decided to name his property…



The road is spectacular, even by Big Bend standards. It follows the Northern bank of the Rio Grande, which marks the border between the USA & Mexico. The road often crosses dried river beds running South towards the Rio Grande. There are occasional puddles showing that these rivers were probably active last night, during the squall that woke me…



The wind and weather has carved the rock here into strange shapes…



The local tourist office has tried hard here – this picnic area has fibre-glass tepees in place of the flat board roofs normally used.



Here I meet up with Jürg & Janet Gertsch, who are over from Switzerland riding their Softail Harley from Miami to Los Angeles. They arrived about 4 weeks ago and will be departing from LA in 5 weeks time. We chat for a while, then exchange Email addresses and ride on.



The road continues North-West, maintaining its spectacular vistas…



Until I stop photographing them – I’m in danger of experiencing it all through the viewfinder of a camera…



This is cattle country and I often ride over cattle grids (called cattle guards over here), with a difference – they’re painted on the road…



…apparently the cattle won’t cross them…:
I reach the desert town of Presidio. The main street is dominated by the elegant City Hall.



I press North towards Fort Davis. Just before the Fort, I turn left down the 166 and ride the Davis Mountain Scenic Parkway. Predictably, it’s beautiful :P



It winds its way through a loop of about 80 miles, ending up as Highway 118, back at Fort Davis. Just before it does, you get to see the McDonald Observatory



built at the top of the highest road in Texas. The views are pretty impressive.



I go into Fort Davis to fuel up, then retrace my steps along part of the same loop, before heading off to the hateful Interstate 10 West. I ride the 37 miles to Van Horn (just down the road from Lorry Headlight) and check into a Best Western, where I manage to access the Internet for the first time since Monday. The computer link is in the lobby, however, so I just upload my pictures and will leave the journal updates until tomorrow night, when, if things go according to plan, I should be in Roswell…
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Old 05-05-2004, 10:17 PM   #53
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But things never do go according to plan, do they?

I wake to find the weather has changed severely. There's a thick overcast over Van Horn and it looks worse to the North, where I'll be heading. My initial plan was to head for Carlsbad, some 100 miles North, and visit a series of caverns there. I'm tempted to discard this idea, as I've just realised it's Saturday, and the caverns are likely to be very crowded. No matter, I'll press on towards Roswell, 70 miles North of Carlsbad...

I get fully waterproofed up and set off at 1000. The clouds which shroud the tops of the beautiful Sierra Diablo Mountains are threatening, yet oddly alluring - a bit like Helen Mirren being angry with you*...



I soon start climbing into the Guadaloupe Montains and it starts to drizzle. Soon the visibility is down to under a mile and, on the arrow straight road with flat scrubland to either side, it feels like riding over Dartmoor.

I enter New Mexico at 1130 and the drizzle continues. New Mexico's tourist office certainly knows how to make a place sound attractive though...



I decide to stop for the day - riding in these conditions when you have no schedule to keep is like practice bleeding. I stop at Carlsbad and get a room at the Days Inn with 'free high speed internet access in all rooms' - great! The rain beats against the window as I write these words - tomorrow is forecast to be fine, though - which will be nice :)

*Sorry - I've been on the road a long time...
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Old 05-05-2004, 10:17 PM   #54
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4th April

So I got up this morning, looked out of the window at the rain coming down like stair-rods - just like it had all night, although this morning it isn't punctuated by the crash of thunder...

I ring reception to extend my stay for another night - the room's comfortable and not exorbitantly priced, has high speed internet access etc etc - why not?

Carlsbad Caverns are just down the road, so I ring Carlsbad Transit (the local bus company) to ask how much it would be for a return ticket - the girl at the other end tells me that there are no services today - she doesn't think the roads are open - the only reason I've managed to talk to her is that she's organising evacuating families from flooded houses....:eek:

Think I'll stay in & watch HBO...

Also found out it was an hour earlier than I thought :P - I'm now on Mountain Time (UK + 8 hrs)...
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Old 05-05-2004, 10:28 PM   #55
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5th April

Well, it stopped raining – long enough for me to set off, anyway! After doing some retail therapy (Navigator II should be at my next mail drop waiting for me ), I was packed, refuelled and on the road for 1100. As I rode through Carlsbad, evidence of the heavy rain was everywhere – from patches of silt covering large sections of main roads, to debris washed up against bridges in the storm drains.

I head North, towards Roswell. I’m in the high desert now, the road I’m travelling is over 3000ft above sea level. The vegetation differs from the desert at Big Bend in as much as it has few trees and is nearly all low-lying scrub. The place is flat – I mean flat like the top of a desk. The ride, along a dual carriageway, isn’t terribly exciting so, when I reach Artesia, I turn off the main road and take County Road 2 instead. This isn’t exciting either, but at least it’s not dual carriageway…

Roswell is famous, of course, as being the home of the conspiracy theories surrounding Extra Terrestrials and Flying Saucers. In July 1947, the US Air Force claimed to have found a crashed UFO – a claim they quickly withdrew, saying it was a weather balloon. The rumours of cover-ups and conspiracies have multiplied ever since – if you’re bored, try typing ‘Roswell’ into Google and see the screen fill up with weird stuff :P Still, what happened to this aeroplane? Why is it in someone’s front yard? – what is the significance of the statue of a horse…:eek:



As I come into Roswell, I notice the airport looks a little busy…



It seems that they allow the spare taxiways and runways to be rented out to airlines and other operators to store their spare aircraft. New Mexico’s normally arid climate make it an ideal place for this. Until I arrived :P, they hadn’t had rain in Roswell for three years! There are dozens of aircraft stored here.

I suspect any native of Roswell gets pretty fed up with answering UFO questions, but the town does take advantage of its history…



…so where else to have lunch, than the Crash Site Café? (The Best Food in the Universe*).



I have an memorable lunch – memorable because, in the booth across the aisle from me are two 35 yr old adolescents having a really serious discussion about the motives of a character in Star Trek. They were clearly the kind of people who’s idea of a good time would involve abduction followed by gang-probing by a saucer-full of extra terrestrials…

I get back on the bike, putting my thermal liner back in my jacket, for the first time since I left Georgia in February. I decide against taking I70 to the West, but instead ride Highway 246, a meandering back-road, which will bring me out at roughly the same place.



At first, it’s quite pleasant, though it feels bloody cold. Soon, however, it starts to look a bit threatening again…



I stop and put on my waterproof gloves and put the shower cap on the tank bag.

I’ve no sooner set off than I round a corner and execute a copy-book emergency stop – just in time to avoid a group of eight deer across the road. They panic and run in all directions, two of them so scared they stand and stare at me long enough for me to get the camera out and take a couple of snaps…



…whilst trying to get my bum to let go of the seat…:P



I ride on and I’m soon in heavy and cold rain again. The weather suddenly feels a lot colder – I round a right hand bend and I’m a little puzzled by what I see…



…is that snow?



No – if anything it’s worse – it’s billions of hailstones… Thankfully, some truck has driven through the drifts of melting ice and I manage to navigate the wheel-tracks for just over a mile, before returning to good old cold rain…

I eventually get onto the I54 heading South. This is even higher desert – over 5300 ft – you could join the ‘mile-high’ club in the back of your Camaro here…;). To my left, over the mountains of the Lincoln National Forest, a storm is soaking the slopes - to my right it’s bright sunshine. Soon, a fantastically vivid rainbow forms to my left, so I take the arty-farty pic…:P



I stop in Alamogordo at a Motel 6, dry out & warm up…


* A complete lie :
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Old 05-05-2004, 10:29 PM   #56
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6th April

A very long and odd day…

I woke to find a fine morning, with blue skies and, according to the Weather Channel, very little chance of rain (I also hear that the authorities have declared a state of emergency in Carlsbad, where I started from yesterday, because of the flooding – they apparently had 4 inches of rain in 36 hours over the weekend I was there…). I skipped breakfast, checked out and was on the road for 1000. Being sure not to pick up any hitch-hikers…



…I set off towards the White Sands National Monument. Set in the Tularosa Basin, the white gypsum sands cover 275 square miles of desert. The National Parks Service have constructed a series of roads, of both paved and rolled sand, to allow you to ride around the dunes…



…the sand in bright sunshine is dazzling and sunglasses are a must.

I continue South West towards Las Cruces, through the San Agustin Pass. When I reach the other size, the whole valley is laid out before me, as is…



…the town of Organ :P

I turn onto the I25 and head North and a very odd thing happens. After 20ish miles, the signs and cones warns me that there is a Border Patrol check-point ahead. I slow down and join the queue of 10 or so cars awaiting checks. I get my passport ready (I’ve been checked like this 3 times so far). As I get to about 2 cars from the check-point, I notice that the pick-up truck behind me is edging forward, between me and the ‘shoulder’. Assuming he’s something to do with the Border Patrol, I move over to the left to let him through, as the ‘shoulder’ is non-existent – in fact it’s a 3 ft drop. As the cab draws alongside me, the driver (in the uniform plaid shirt and baseball cap of the hardcore redneck) stops, looks at me and says ‘You know, I’d like to F*ck you up’. Certain that I’d mis-heard, I said ‘Pardon?’ and he repeated it – his facial expression leaving me in no doubt as to his sincerity.
My finely honed social skills sensed that further discussion on the subject would almost certainly be futile, so I put the bike in gear and moved in front of him again. He and I were waved through the check-point without being stopped and, as I accelerate away, it’s clear he intends to catch up. I’ve had enough, so I accelerate up to about 110 for a few miles, until I estimate I’m a couple of miles ahead of him, and watch my mirror. I never see him again.
I reflect on the incident. I can’t take it personally – I never spoke to the man (it normally takes a conversation of at least a minute before people feel this way about me) – I come to the conclusion that he is either anti Brit, anti Bike or anti people in general– or a permutation of the above. Whatever : – the hell with him and his twisted existence

I arrive at the most unusually named town in New Mexico – Truth or Consequences…



Originally named Palomas Springs, the US Post Office changed the name (how does the Post Office rename a town?) of this small town to Hot Springs in 1914. In the 1940s, Ralph Edwards, the host of a popular & long running radio show ‘Truth or Consequences’, offered nationwide publicity to any city which would change its name to Truth or Consequences - in 1950, a majority of the residents elected to rise to the challenge. In 1964, an even larger majority voted to keep the name, although there is apparently a move afoot to vote on the issue again.
In the meantime, it’s the only town in the world to be named after a radio show…(apart from ‘Steve Wright in the Afternoon’, in Connecticut)

I head back down the I25 for 7 miles and turn right onto Highway 152 towards Silver City. It’s a great biking road through beautiful scenery



with some spectacular views.



152 is a fantastic road, full of twisties and has a great road surface.

It starts winding its way up into the hills – there’s still some snow on the north-facing slopes of the higher ones. You can see forever from some of the lay-bys…



I come across the Santa Rita mine…



…which is vast – probably the biggest open-cast mine I’ve ever seen.

At Silver City I turn right onto the 180 North…



…before turning left onto the 78 and entering Arizona…



…where the scenery starts getting really beautiful…



…and the roads start getting very twisty. It becomes a trade off – do you ride the fantastic biking road the way it deserves, or slow down and give the scenery the attention it merits? Decisions, decisions

I then come across the town of Clifton. Clifton is a mining town. Or rather, it’s a town sitting on the edge of a mine. A HUGE mine – it makes the Santa Rita look like a pothole in comparison.



It’s a copper mine – there’s a public viewing area which quotes some figures from 11 years ago – the mine produced 125,000 tons of ore per day – processing 830,000 tons of rock per day to achieve this. Further down the road, I find these trucks…



…unfortunately, though I asked nicely, I couldn’t get a picture of the Adv alongside one of them – but the cars parked beside them give you a clue – they are big – really big – the tipper bodies carry 350 tons of rock at a time…

I refuel at Clifton and head North on the 191. As I leave Clifton, a sign says it’s 90 miles to the next services. It’s 1800 and a beautiful day – that will mean I’ll be in Alpine in about 2 hrs time – it’ll just be dark… I decide to press on – Clifton only had one motel, I noticed, at the junction of the main road and the railway line, which must be in use continuously in order to move that amount of ore…

Highway 191 is, quite simply, the best road I’ve ever ridden. It’s cut into the side of a series of hills and mountains and snakes north through the Gila and Apache National Forests.



The road continues to climb and snow appears on a regular basis, first just on the northern slopes, then, as I get above 9000 ft, on all the hillsides, with just the road clear. The road is extremely twisty and I’m not making good time. There are loads of signs warning of deer, not just ordinary deer, but Elk. I press on towards Alpine as the sun sets. The views are still fantastic…



Soon it gets dark – thankfully I come across a car heading in the same direction as me (one of only 3 vehicles I see in 90 miles). I tuck in behind him and take advantage of his lights to give me early warning of wildlife for the last 20 miles. Thankfully, all I see is a rabbit – and I manage to avoid him

I arrive in Alpine, a small town in the hills (6000+ ft), after 440 miles, find a cheap little ‘Mom & Pop’ Motel, have an excellent cheeseburger at the local café and write up my journal. Checking my mileage I note that I’ve completed my first 10,000 miles since arriving in the USA on 1st February…

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Old 05-05-2004, 10:33 PM   #57
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Monument Valley

7th April

I sleep very well and pack the bike in bright sunshine. Today I’m going to ride to Monument Valley, one of the few sights on my ‘Must Do’ list. I decide to skip breakfast and grab an early lunch – until, that is, I find 2 GSes parked outside the splendidly named Bear Wallow Café, where I ate the night before…



They belong to Jerry (the Adv) and Jeff (the GS Lite) who are having spot of breakfast before riding down the 191 to Clifton. I’m able to tell them it’s clear of snow (they’d wanted to ride it last Saturday and had been dissuaded by Jolynn, one of the waitresses at the café. From the conditions she describes last weekend, it was good advice). After a while they set off South and I finish the breakfast I was going to skip, ably served by Jolynn and the owner, Talic (if I can read my notes correctly :P)…



The Bear Wallow is an excellent café and I can thoroughly recommend it as either a starting point or a destination for those riding the 191 .

I ride North along largely straight and fairly uninteresting roads, across the desert plains of the Navajo Reservation. The weather has cooled somewhat and some very big and threatening looking storms are on the horizon – unfortunately, the horizon I’m headed for… :…



I put the shower cap (now repaired with duct tape after the seams started to split) on the tank bag and put my wet weather gloves on. Soon I enter the edge of one of the storms – luckily the road avoids the worst of the rain, but the sudden gusts of wind create fairly hairy conditions on the wet mud which has been tracked onto the road from the dirt roads. I’m soon through the worst and the scenery starts to get more spectacular as I ride through Chinle…



I soon turn left towards Kayenta, my destination for today. Betty tells me it’s 14 miles away. Unfortunately – so is this…



…I arrive at the Best Western in the middle of a violent hailstorm. I unload the panniers, noting that the left one has let in about a cupful of water – great :. As panniers, these things make good water carriers. Despite my best efforts – and those of Jeff Smith, I’ve been unable to waterproof them, despite using more sealant than last time I sealed my bath. I guess I’ll just have to make sure I waterproof everything I put inside them, as best I can – something I never had to do with my Jesse’s and Touratech Zega bags…:mad:

Time for something to eat (nothing to drink – Indian Reservations are ‘dry’). Tomorrow I plan to ride the dirt road round Monument Valley – assuming it’s still passable after today’s rain...

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Old 05-05-2004, 10:34 PM   #58
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8th April

Well, it was a fine morning – but, as I left the hotel for Monument Valley, I had a feeling that the damage had already been done by the rain last night. The road up towards the Utah border is very scenic…



…but even a short trial ride over the gravel and dirt ‘shoulder’ had the Adv sinking drastically, and I was glad to regain tarmac…:(



The spectacular Mesas that dot the valley are huge and impressive. Completely in contrast are the little shanty towns housing Native Americans built in clumps in their shadow…

I’m soon approaching the entrance to the Navajo Park at Monument Valley.



I talk to the girl at the gate. She confirms that the dirt road leading round the valley is probably impassable to anything except a 4x4. I’m very disappointed, and ride off thinking about what to do next… The weather forecast for this week is for scattered storms for the next 4 days. It’s not worth hanging around to wait for the track to dry out, so I decide to ride on, following the route North that Arch & I planned, towards Bryce Canyon National Park. If I can possibly get back here later in the trip then I will…

I ride up the straight and undemanding 98 and 89, through pleasant, but hardly spectacular (relatively speaking :P) countryside. At least it’s dry…

I cross the impressive and elegant bridge at Glen Canyon Dam…



…which holds back Lake Powell, an enormous water-sports area.



From a scenic pull off (up a veryrough track), the whole area I’ve just travelled through is on display. As usual, the camera struggles to do it justice…



The hills in the background, centre, are about 60 miles away…

As I get back on the bike, I notice I’ve been hit by a sniper…



The rock has left a small hole in the front of the screen, but the ‘exit wound’ is the size of a 50p piece.

I press on North towards Bryce Canyon. After a brief stop in Kanab, where I refuel and get a (much needed) haircut, I ride North through much more interesting roads…



…before encountering my old friend, the hailstorm, again. I decide to stop at Bryce Canyon for the day, so that I can spend tomorrow (hopefully in better weather) exploring it. I check into the Best Western in Panguitch and unload the bike.

I do a check of the bike for damage, insecure bits etc every couple of days. I noticed that the rear tyre was squaring off a bit when I was in Alamogordo and made a mental note to arrange for the tyres to be replaced when I got to Montana. As I check the rear tyre now, I’m astonished to see it’s almost down to the canvas in the centre :eek: I can’t believe it! 3 days (& 900ish miles ago) it was fine (I re-check the ‘arty’ photo of it in White Sands…).

I check everywhere in town – no joy – they only do car tyres. Eventually I find a BMW dealer, BMW of Salt Lake, who has a pair of Tourances in stock and will fit them for me tomorrow lunchtime, for $295 (£163ish). Time for a very sedate 250 mile ride early tomorrow morning – Bryce Canyon will have to wait.

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Old 05-05-2004, 10:35 PM   #59
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9th April

I'm up at 0600 to give myself plenty of time to ride the 250 miles to BMW of Salt Lake - with the rear tyre in its present state, I don't want to have to push my luck...

I come out to the bike to find that the roads are dry (hurrah!), but that there is a thick layer of frost all over the bike and the hotel parking lot...:(

I ride off into the cold (thank goodness for heated clothing ) - keeping my speed down and peering through the mist... I soon come across the carcase of a deer lying at the road side - another thing to look out for :.

I get on the Interstate and life gets easier - it's now light and the road surface is completely dry. I set a steady cruise and arrive at BMW of Salt Lake at just before midday.



I ask the Service Manager, Chad, to do an oil & filter change, as it's nearly 6k since the last one, and to give the bike a good look over. I also get a new oil filler cap, as the O ring I'd fitted back in Jasper has been weeping oil and the filler cap itself seems loose in the housing... The inspection reveals that the rear pads need replacing, which results in a bill of about $450 - £250ish - which seems quite reasonable, given the circumstances.

I pay my bill and retire to the comfort of the Motel 6 in Salt Lake City - and take advantage of an internet connection for the first time in several days...

No pictures to speak of, today, so here's a sign I noticed in Roswell the other day...



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Old 05-05-2004, 10:36 PM   #60
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10th April

I decided to ride back down to Panguitch to re-join the route Arch & I had planned… The weather is forecast to improve from tomorrow, and Bryce Canyon National Park is high on my list… Before I leave Salt Lake City, I decide to have a quick explore of Cottonwood Road, a scenic route up to a ski resort to in the mountains which loom over the city to the East. First I’ve got to avoid other local attractions…



…damn – it’s only 1030 :)
The road up to the ski resort is dry and well surfaced, and the views are great…



The ski-lifts are not working, and there are few people at the top – the ski season finished about a week ago – only a few die-hards remain. I get on the Interstate and head South, arriving in Panguitch (in a blizzard!) at about 1600. Thankfully the snow isn’t settling and the forecast is better for tomorrow…

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