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Old 06-18-2009, 10:33 PM   #1
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AdvRydrs slab through the US, a whirlwind three-week tour

This is a trip we just completed; now that we have all the photos together, I thought I'd try to put together a sort of retrospective ride report.

Our route starts and ends near Atlanta, GA, and takes us up through the midwest (Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska) as far as Sioux City in one IronButt day, and from there through South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. All together we covered somewhere around 7000 miles in a little under three weeks, experiencing temperatures from the thirties to over 100 degrees, and altitudes from sea level to 10,000 feet.
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Old 06-18-2009, 10:46 PM   #2
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On May 29th, we got a very early start. I am REALLY not a morning person, but having bound ourselves to meet our IronButt starting witness at a gas station at 4, I was obliged to be a good sport and get up with my husband at 3 AM.

You probably know a good friend by their willingness to help you hide a body in the dark of night or, if no murder victim presents him/herself at an opportune time, is willing to wake up at some crazy hour to sign a witness form, so I have to give Jan props for being there for us, setting us up with a paper-tracking system that worked well, and slipping me a tin of Altoids that lasted most of our tour.

Our first day for me was pretty much a haze of road, gas stops, hastily-downed cups of coffee and the resulting pee breaks until early afternoon, when we rewarded ourselves with a photo op at the St Louis arch and a Dennys sit-down lunch.



Here are our bikes, an R1200GS Adventure and an R1150GS, loaded down with brand-new sidecases.



Once entering Missouri at the Arch, it seemed to take us hours to escape that lovely state, which left its mark on us in the form of opaque, bug-spattered windscreens and faceshields, gross. We made only necessary stops until we pulled in to South Sioux City Iowa at some ludicrously late hour. As it was close to bar closing time on a Friday night, there seemed to be a cop on every corner, so we corralled one into being our ending witness. About 1100 miles in 21 hours, perhaps slower than optimal but we made it!
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Old 06-18-2009, 11:04 PM   #3
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Day 2 - South Sioux City NE to Wall SD

The next morning, we took our time getting up and out of our South Sioux City hotel and back on the road.

The first of many riders we'd meet this trip; this fellow was stopped on the side of the road, but needed no assistance :)



We had lunch at Ole's Cafe in Niobrara, Nebraska...



We didn't think we'd like Nebraska, but it was a beautiful state to ride through. A bit remote at times, perhaps...



...maybe even a little underpopulated and ghostly...



...and then we got to the highlight of the day, the Badlands National Park in SD.









An homage to the peach...






We pulled into Wall SD a little too late to visit the famous Wall Drug, but we were treated to a nice sunset.

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Old 06-19-2009, 12:17 AM   #4
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Can't wait to read the rest...

Sounds like fun!

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Old 06-19-2009, 12:47 AM   #5
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Old 06-19-2009, 04:57 AM   #6
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That's a lot of riding... "on the road again"...

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Old 06-19-2009, 06:17 AM   #7
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Thanks for the report. I'm headed to South Dakota on Friday. Looking to cooling down from the 100+ weather we have had here in Texas.
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Old 06-19-2009, 10:34 AM   #8
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Day 3 - Wall SD to Greybull WY

We woke bright and early in Wall SD and headed right for the tourist-trap that is Wall Drug.



Next we headed up the road to Mount Rushmore.



And then, a little further, through Sturgis, under clear blue skies and temperatures in the eighties.





Sturgis is a near-ghost town when the big rally isn't happening; regardless, we saw more motorcycle traffic on the highways in this area than anywhere else on our trip.



We stopped by the BMW dealer in Sturgis, but of course they were closed on a Sunday.



We rode up to the Devil's Tower, but only as close as we could get without having to pay to get in... saving our pennies for greater things to come The only close encounter we had here was with hot dogs at the store at the base of the tower.



Towards the end of the day, we went through our first pass, about 9500', and a ton of elk, deer and even moose on the downhill side, as well as the beginnings of Yellowstone-like scenery.







In Greybull, WY, we camped at possibly the nicest KOA we've experienced to date. It's run by a large gentleman from the Netherlands and his wife, and we heard some great stories about this tall, red-faced fellow chasing down rogue Belgians and hippies who attempt to skip payment. "Where would they go, anyway?" he asks rhetorically. "The closest town is fifty miles away through the desert!" So, don't try that, but do try the breakfast in the cafe before checking out.
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Old 06-19-2009, 11:14 AM   #9
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Day 4 - Greybull WY to Yellowstone

Today the weather started out perfect in Greybull, but the highway from Greybull as far as Cody was desolate and very windy. We thought about what it would be like to be a Belgian bicycle-riding fee-jumper being chased through this desert by an angry, red-faced Netherlander and laughed, just a little uneasily...



At one point, I told my husband that I felt like I was leaned into the wind about 30 degrees. He looked at me in his rearview and reported that 30 degrees was about right!

We stopped at this dam and learned about how the dam was built without benefit of the modern construction and safety equipment enjoyed today.





Aside from the wind, the weather was beautiful although a bit chilly as we entered the park.

Our first bison! (They smell terribly.)


Some cold rocky elevations...






We stopped for gas, then went into a store under sunny skies. We came out 20 minutes later only to be greeted by cloudy skies and mist which would soon turn into a cold rain. We donned raingear and pressed on through the south loop to see the sights.





Geothermal features!





The continental divide:



Old Faithful, pre-eruption:



and during!



Finally, we were forced to stop by a bison procession down the road... it was very unsettling to have my hands off the controls holding a camera when that big fellow passed to my left and turned his head for a better look at me. I was thankful he decided I wasn't a threat, choosing instead to continue on his way with his harem close behind.







Our destination was the KOA located six miles from the west entrance to Yellowstone, just over the line in Montana. We decided to spend Day 5 at the KOA, laundering and hoping the weather would clear enough to make it worth our while to go back into the park for some hiking... this was not to be, unfortunately.

In West Yellowstone, we ate at Bullwinkle’s -- good-enough food, but pricey in our opinion. While seated at a table a waiter ran over to our table and asked there was any food in Mr AdvRydr's tank bag. "No, why?" " A raven is trying to get into your bag!" We went outside to find a very bold raven perched on the tank bag, pulling at the zipper and strings.



Having rescued the tankbag from its fate of frayed strings, we watched through the window as many predatory, clever ravens tried a variety of tactics to gather treats from the backs of pickup trucks, etc. Watch your shiny things and your treats in Montana!
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Old 06-19-2009, 11:35 AM   #10
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Day 6 - West Yellowstone, MT to Mountain Home, ID

We left Yellowstone this morning and it was 34 degrees and raining. The ride was uneventful other than the chill.

We experienced our first equipment issues in Yellowstone, the first being the failure, after two years of hard use, of the Garmin Zumo's touchscreen. The Zumo still shows current position, elevation, direction, etc, but routes cannot be entered or selected, hampering the unit's usability. Secondly, Mr AdvRydr dropped his camera at about 60mph; of course pieces scattered across both lanes. We did find the memory card and all of the parts, and at iur next overnight stop even found that the camera still worked if you held the pieces all together.

We did stop this morning and bought a new, waterproof and somewhat-shock-resistant camera.

Idaho has secrets in its deserts... we traveled out US20 west and found some real interesting cold war history. The Idaho National Laboratory is a huge multi-facility site in the middles of the Idaho.


EBR1(Experimental Breeder Reactor I) is located there and we toured it and were amazed at all of the analog gauges and dials.





The facility earned the distinction of being the world's first electricity-generating nuclear power plant when it produced sufficient electricity to illuminate four 200-watt light bulbs and subsequently generated sufficient electricity to power its building.



It continued to be used for experimental purposes until it was decommissioned in 1964. The purpose of EBR-I was not to produce electricity but instead to validate nuclear physics theory which suggested that a breeder reactor should be possible. EBR-1 was the first breeder reactor in the world.

They also did some experiment with nuclear powered jets for flight which we found really interesting. Two General Electric turbofan engines were successfully powered to nearly full thrust using two shielded reactors. The two engines complete with reactor system are also located at the EBR-1 facility. Note that the reactor for the engine is only about ten feet long; the rest of the structure you see is to keep the engines from flying off across the desert.



Traveling west, we toured Craters of the Moon National Park, where one can see cinder cones and the largest and best preserved flood basalt flood areas in the continental United States. This is a very dry environment which receive approximately 15 to 20 inches of rain a year. Apollo astronauts performed part of their training at Craters of the Moon Lava Field by learning to look for and collect good rock specimens in an unfamiliar and harsh.









While in the Craters if the Moon park, we met an older gentleman who told us of a secret hot spring not on any map or in any tour book. It took some looking, but we found the spring about 400 yards off a remote section of major highway.

We parked the bikes and walked down the hidden trail to the spring.



We saw clothes scattered across a few rocks. Not knowing what to expect we pushed on and cautiously peeked over a lava ridge and there was a couple (clothed, thankfully, in bathing suits) soaking in the spring. They were finishing up, got out, and we had this beautiful hot spring all to ourselves.





We used the time and took an hour to relax and soak. We did not want to leave and actually considered camping there for a night.

Onward we went to Mountain Home ID. After the hot spring we traveled to Picabo; after Picabo, we traveled down the straightest length of road so far — approximately 40 miles and just a slight bend. The road finally gave way to a nice scenic drive through a winding canyon and Mountain Home ID. There, we stayed at a KOA run by a retired police officer who assured us his campsite 'has no crime rate'.
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Old 06-19-2009, 11:48 AM   #11
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Day 7 -- Mountain Home, ID to Klamath Falls, OR

This was by far the most weather active day we have had. I don't think you can appreciate a thunder storm until you experience one on the high plains at 6000 ft.

Traveling westward from Mountain Home, Idaho, the trek was not that eventful. We decided to eat lunch in Vale, OR at a nice little home town local spot called the Starlite Café.



Vale, OR is a true small town like what has been idealized in the movies and in story books. The Starlite Café was a gathering place for the local townspeople, complete with a nice sitting bar where you can order a meal and, if you have any room left after your meal, enjoy one of the homemade pies displayed in a cooler.

Listening, we heard conversation regarding land purchases, politics, farming and to our rear two gentleman were discussing who was at fault from leaving a cattle fence open and what should be done to prevent it from happening again. We were often engaged in conversation with many of the patrons asking where we were from and where we were going. On gentleman told us to make sure we had a full tank of gas because as he put it there were not many people out there referring to our route and direction. As we would find this was the understatement of the year.

As we filled our tanks in Vale, we met Loud Al, who was in the middle of a run to New Mexico. He gave us some good route advice and even an Oregon map -- very helpful guy to run into :)

Past Vale, OR, as the fine gentleman in Vale had told us, there is nothing, no gas for at least 100 miles, and miles and miles and miles of sage brush and long straight road. You can see for miles in all directions.



We did however encounter two very large storms. For those of you who have not ever watched a major thunderstorm form right in front of you all I can say is wow. It is both a beautiful and scary sight, especially when you are in the middle of the high plains with no cover to hide under, or even a hill for miles in any direction.



We dodged storms all day. We would see them off in the distance and joke about missing another one. Luck almost ran out on us as we dodged two storms in the early afternoon, one fully mature and the other 'working on it'. This one was in its initial towering cumulus stage of growth, growing at such a rapid rate we actually stopped and watched it grow. We watched the powerful up drafts push upward forming beautiful cumulus clouds as it went until finally it was in its mature stage, with the classic anvil formation of a super cell storm. It was still many miles to the southwest. We could see the rain foot at the core darkening to a pitch black. That is when we noticed that there was blue sky between these two large storms, and the road we were on seemed to weave its way between the two storms. We thought, wow, we beat the storms again.

As we rode on we noticed the older storm was passign just behind us, but the newly-maturing storm was getting larger and larger. We drove toward it until it began to fill the whole sky. Large cloud structures that looked like translucent waves began forming overhead. We continued on for several miles under the huge storm -- the temperature dropped from almost 80 degrees to around 49 degrees. Large pouched mammatus clouds were directly overhead, but we were still not in the rain zone of the storm.

As we rode on the small of the sagebrush became very intense and the whole desert seemed electrified, dark and glowing. Further toward the center of this large storm we rode until we noticed that the whole desert floor was covered with several inches of hail for miles in all directions. Nature today was forgiving to us today and allowed us to witness a truly awesome sight.

We headed on to Bend where we turned south and then headed for Crater Lake. The drive to the north entrance road to Crater Lake is simply spectacular. It is a 15 mile straight section of road.



Once in the Crater Lake park we encountered a lot of snow and some of the most spectacular scenery we have saw so far. We hated to leave but darkness was approaching and the temperature was plummeting.









We got to Klamath Falls and of course there are no falls here it seems that a local hydro-project did away with the falls years ago.
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Old 06-19-2009, 11:58 AM   #12
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Day 8 -- Klamath Falls, OR to Fort Bragg, CA

The ride from Klamath Falls OR to Weed CA was uneventful. Weed, a cool place with a funny name:



Weed is a beautiful town full of arts a craft shops and incredibly beautiful mountain views. We saw a long-haired bearded gentleman standing on the side of the road with sheepskins and reading a bible, and speculated on the purpose of his journey.

From Weed CA we headed to Mt Shasta. I had been telling Kristy about Mt Shasta for days. It rained and was cold. When we arrived at the mountain all we could see of it was a small sliver of it through the clouds and fog. The area surrounding Mt Shasta is simply beautiful even in foggy, rainy and cold weather.

From Mt Shasta CA thru Castle Crag, Lamoine, Salt Creek, across Shasta lake to Redding CA we rode. The country side even in the rain and fog was beautiful.

From Redding CA we traveled down the Eureka Way around Whiskeytown Lake, then turned onto Hwy 299 and traveled through Douglas City. We then took Hwy 3 through Hayfork, then Hwy 36 through Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park. This was our first encounter with giant redwood trees.



The road at this point became very dangerous as the road snaked thru these beautiful stands of trees. The road went from two lane hwy to single lane roads smaller than most homes' driveways, no yellow lines, no white lines. This made it very challenging going around curves because oncoming traffic was all over the road. This was the longest curviest series of roads I think I have ever been down.





We took Hwy 101 south to Rio Dell and ate at the Old 101 Cafe.

We continued down Hwy 101 south to the Avenue of Giants, a roughly 36 mile drive through an awesome forest -- sensory overload. For those of you who have never seen a giant red wood tree I hope these pictures give you an idea of how large they really are.



Giant redwood trees are hard to photograph because of their size. A grove of trees are all so large and when you photograph them they look like just large trees.





Their size can only really be seen when compared to something like a car or person.





We headed south on Hwy 101 to catch Hwy 1 in Leggett. The initial twenty four miles of Hwy 1 to the coast is extremely curvy and narrow passing through a redwood grove and vast north California forest.

By the time we got to the coast it was just getting dark.



Hwy 1 is not a friendly road at night, as it travels along the coast's 500 foot cliffs, often without guardrails.



We traveled south on Hwy 1 for about thirty miles before pulling into Fort Bragg for the night.
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Old 06-19-2009, 02:41 PM   #13
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What a great ride! Thanks for the great pics and sharing your ride west

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Old 06-20-2009, 01:43 PM   #14
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Days 9 and 10 -- Fort Bragg CA to Petaluma CA, touring San Francisco

The approximately 70 mile drive down Hwy 1 from Fort Bragg to Jenner is simply one of the most exhilarating rides we have taken. We were rewarded with fantastic vistas of the sea, challenging curves and the pervasive smells of eucalyptus and cedar.







We saw many types of wildlife one would expect on the shores and cliffs of the ocean...



...and some you would not, like the cows in the most seemingly inaccessible spots along our route just standing there between the guardrails and the cliffsides looking menacing and doing what cows do.

We encountered fog that at times was so thick we could not see much of anything.





There were also large motor coaches navigating the treacherous curves.



Before turning east on Hwy 116 at Jenner we stopped and, looking west over Penny Island and the Russian River, we watched sea lions lounging on the tip of Sonoma Coast State Beach.



Turning east on Hwy 116, we followed the Russian River for 6 or 7 miles through several small artsy towns and vineyards. We are now in wine country. Continuing on to Santa Rosa CA yielded some of the most beautiful rolling hills you can imagine.

Turning right on Hwy 101 we headed for our daily destination, a KOA Kabin in Petaluma CA, the town where the movie American Graffiti was filmed.



We wanted to see San Francisco. Usually we are against all organized touring because being explorers we like to discover things on our own, but this time we decided to take a tour with a group. This turned out to be a great idea because we saw more of San Francisco then we could have on our own. Also the streets of San Francisco can be really steep and not at all motorcycle friendly.



We saw the Golden Gate bridge,




Fisherman’s Wharf,







Chinatown,





Fort Point,





and many other places.





After the tour of San Francisco, we settled down at the cabin and ate dinner. The food here is terrible, We had to eat locally grown organic cherries and super sweet strawberries, fresh sourdough bread, locally produced cheese, and wine from a local vineyard.

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Old 06-20-2009, 01:51 PM   #15
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Day 11 & 12 -- Petaluma CA through Yosemite to Lee Vining CA via Tioga Pass

From Petaluma CA We headed south to San Rafael, Marin BMW, because the 1150 needed a new set of tires before we headed out to the nether regions of Nevada and Utah.



From Marin BMW we crossed the Richmond- San Rafael Bridge. As we crossed the bridge we gazed out across the bay at Angel Island and caught brief but beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Our next stop was Yosemite Valley. While driving through Escalon CA we were both discussing how hungry we were and then we passed a girl holding up a sign that said “Eat at Hot Diggity” Intrigued, we decided to stop. If you ever find yourself in Escalon, CA, the Hot Diggity did not have a big sign so look for Cindy’s Restaurant. Hot Digity is located in the same building.



On word of caution however, Do not order the large polish sausage dog unless you are a very large or very hungry person. We each ordered one and wow, all I can say is it is large. We finished up and headed out to our destination, Yosemite Valley.

The drive up to the valley is replete with curves and beautiful mountain scenery. Descending into Yosemite Valley is one of the most picturesque drives thus far on our trip. The many vistas are larger than any camera can really capture.



We saw a baby bear just before our decent into the valley which was very exciting to both of us.



Once in the valley we took many pictures, it seems that one really cannot look in any direction without wanting to take a picture.







We really wanted to stay the night in the valley at Curry Village or one of the other camp grounds in the park but all of them were full, also we drove through a few and they were way to crowded, muddy and just not really scenic. They looked like a refugee camp. This kind of sucked because it was late, wet, and cold and we still had to cross the Tioga pass and reach Mono Lake.

Other than the many animals that come out at night, the evening is really the most scenic time to drive through the mountains. The setting sun cast beautiful shadows. The wind begins to gently blow. The many small and remote mountain lakes we passed and the snow banked roads had a mysterious and beautiful air about them.

When we passed Tioga Lake the clouds were low and we were climbing in altitude, like Crater Lake Oregon the isolation and lack of people gives these areas a very alien feeling.



Ellery Lake was also very beautiful and had an air of isolation about it. We stopped and took some pictures. We were the only people around. There was no traffic or no people; there was just us sitting on our bikes beside this beautiful alpine lake.



We also passed very expansive and beautiful alpine meadows surrounded with snow covered peaks that would call to us. Standing on the side of these meadows one could only gaze across them and wonder what was in their remote reaches.



When we crossed the Tioga Pass it was getting very cold and late. The Guard shack looked like the loneliest place on earth for as the sun begins to set traffic thru these passes really tapers off.



After we drove through the 9945ft pass the decent to Lee Vining, Mono Lake was incredibly steep and exposed. A few feet to the side of the road were steep drop offs into valleys hundreds of feet down. This demanded 100% of our attention for there was a severe penalty for a moment of inattention. We pulled into Lee Vining Late signed into a hotel and found out that we got the last room in the town.
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