Day 12 – 6/13/11

After spending a few days with Kaydee, Steve, and Alida, it was time to head back east.  I left around 9:30 and rode towards Las Vegas on I15.  It started out nice and cool but got much warmer as I rode through the desert.  I’ve ridden this route a number of times now making for a familiar and boring ride.

By the time I got to Las Vegas, it was 98 degrees.  There was some traffic in Las Vegas due to road construction but it cleared up after a couple of miles.  I continued east on I15 into Utah through the hot desert.  As I neared Utah, the scenery became more interesting with large colorful mesas all around.  I always enjoy riding through Utah.

I ended up in Cedar City UT for the night and plan to ride some of the back roads in UT tomorrow.

Miles Today: 446
Total Miles: 4,648
States: CA, NV, AZ, UT


Day 7 – 6/8/11

I took off this morning and headed west n I40 towards Flagstaff, Arizona.   When i reached Flagstaff, I turned south and took Rt 89a towards Sodona.  It was a very nice ride through mountain canyons with nice twisty roads.

Sedona is a beautiful town surrounded by the mountains.  By the looks of the houses, it appears to be an expensive place to live.  There are some nice small shops along the main street through the center of town that again, give me the impression that it takes quite a bit of money to live here.

From Sodona, I continued down 89a towards Prescott AZ.  Again, there were some great roads with sharp turns up the side of mountains and through the mountains.  The temperature in the 70’s making for a comfortable ride.

After Prescott, I turned southwest along Rt 60 towards I10.  The landscape turned into desert and the temperature went up into the mid-high 90’s.  I took I10 towards Los Angeles.  I stopped in Indio CA to fillup the gas tank one last time before arriving at Kaydee and Steve’s house.  Around Palm Springs, the wind started picking up.  I’m guessing that there was probably a good 30mph headwind as I was going up the mountains toward Riverside.  Between the heavy winds and the uphill grade over the mountains, the bike was using a lot of gas.  After only 45 miles, the gas gauge was at 1/2 tank remaining.  Fortunately, the wind subsided and I started going down hill and I made it to Kaydee’s house without having to stop again.

Miles Today: 557
Total Miles: 3,921
States: NM, AZ, CA


Day 6 – 6/7/11

I left a bit early again today, about 7:30,  in an effort to get some good riding in before the heat.  It wasn’t long before I saw signs announcing the White Sands National Monument and decided to stop in and take a look around.

White Sands National Monument

The sand is as white as any you will find.  It’s actually quite a sight to see this bright white sand and large sand dunes out here in the middle of New Mexico.  Within the dunes, there are a number of plants/bushes that somehow find a way to survive here.  It’s really quite amazing that anything can grow here.

Riding a touring bike on roads carved out of sand was a unique experience.  There were areas that were nice and smooth and other places where the sand had become like a washboard.  Of course, the sand is a bit slippery and you need to be careful.

After riding through the park, about 5 miles or so, I headed back out onto the highway.  By this time the temperature was up to about 90 making the ride warm but not altogether uncomfortable.

As I headed north on Rt 180, I began seeing some mountains in the distance.  After spending the past few days on long, straight highways, it was great to ride on roads with curves and some changes in elevation.

This road has nice long sweeping curves that make for great riding.  The landscape is still rather desert-like with somewhat sparse vegetation and lots of exposed rock formations.

Before leaving this morning, I was watching the news and the big story was the forest fires that had been burning in Arizona for about a week.  Cities in New Mexico had air quality warnings due to the smoke being produced from the fires.

Those are not clouds on the horizon, it's a large forest fire producing huge amounts of smoke.

As I got farther north, I started seeing huge clouds of smoke in the distance.  It’s hard for someone from the northeast to appreciate the size of these fires.  The Arizona fire has consumed 400,000 acres of forest and was 0% under control so it was still going strong.

As I got closer and closer to the smoke, it became more apparent just how big this fire was.  Eventually, I started driving into the smoke at which time, it went across the entire horizon leaving absolutely no sign of blue sky.

About a half hour into the smoke, I came upon a sign announcing that Rt 180 was closed near Reserve, NM causing me to stop and find an alternate route.  I ended up heading toward Gallup, NM.  I rode for almost 3 hours without seeing a single car going in the same direction that I was going and maybe 20-30 cars going in the opposite direction.

I rode through some pretty thick smoke for over 50 miles before seeing clear sky again.  Below are a couple of pictures that show what it was like.

Eventually the smoke cleared and I could once again see bright sunny skies.  I ended up stopping for the night in Gallup NM.

Miles Today: 462
Total Miles: 3,364
States: NM

Day 5 – 6/6/11

I got started at about 8:30 this morning and headed towards west on Rt 180 across west Texas.  There’s not a lot to see in this part of Texas.  It’s mostly flat, featureless land dominated by mesquite trees.   The roads are straight with any curves, turns, or other change in direction are few and far between. The weather was good and temperatures started out in the mid 80’s and rose to the mid 90’s as the day progressed.

When I got to Albany, TX I headed a little north to Rt 380 and continued across the rest of Texas.  At some point, I began seeing large fields that were being plowed.  I kept seeing what looked like cotton balls mixed in with the freshly turned soil.  Eventually I stopped alongside the road and walked over to the field and found that it was indeed cotton.

I continued into New Mexico on Rt 380 stopping in Roswell NM.  I bought a couple of shirts at the Roswell Harley Davidson dealer and then went and got something to eat.   Roswell is a good sized town that not surprisingly, has a number of UFO related shops and attractions.

From Roswell, I headed southwest n Rt 70 towards Las Cruces.  About 20 miles from Roswell, I rode into some mountains. I was nice to get away from the long, straight, desolate roads and into some more scenic areas.  The scenery combined with temperatures in the mid 80’s made the last hour of the day quite enjoyable.

I stopped for the night in a town called Ruidoso at around 7:00 mountain time.   The forecast for tomorrow looks good with temperatures in the mid 80’s.  There are some large wildfires in Arizona so tomorrow’s ride may get smokey.

Miles Today: 561
Total Miles: 2,902
States: TX, NM

Day 4 – 6/5/11

As I sit here writing this, my boots have a hairdryer stuffed inside them – more on that later …

I left around 7:30 this morning to try to beat the heat.  Within about 5 minutes, I had crossed the Mississippi River and into Louisiana.  The difference in the landscape was immediately apparent with hills n the east side of the river and flat farmland on the west side of the river.   I rode north n Rt 82 and then turned west n Rt 2 all the way across Louisiana.

It was quite comfortable riding until around 10:00 when it started getting hot.   By noon, it was in the mid 90’s again and getting hotter.   It was a nice leisurely 55mph ride through farmland and small towns.   Towards the western part of the state, I saw a number of small pumpjacks pumping oil out of people’s front yards.

As I crossed into Texas, the first thing you notice is that the speed limit is 70mph on the secondary roads instead of 55mph.  You have to be careful and pay attention because the road is a basic two lane road with crossroads, driveways, and all of the other normal road hazards and 70 mph seems pretty fast for these conditions.

About 2:00 I decided to get on to I30 to see if I could get past the hot weather.  According to the weatherman, it was a bit cooler northwest of Dallas so I decided to get on to the interstate and try to put the oppressive heat behind me.   I stopped at a gas station to fill up and get some water and there was a guy on a new CVO Road Glide Ultra that had a flat tire.  He was on his way to visit a friend in Dallas when he ran over a chunk of road debris.  He was calling his friend to come from Dallas and pick him and his bike up because his roadside assistance would only tow it t the nearest dealer.

Looking down the road, it looked like there was some nice cloud cover not too far down the road.  As I got back on to I30, I was looking forward to the clouds providing some relief to the hot sun.   Unfortunately, about 2 miles down the road, the lightning started and then the rain started coming down in bucketloads.  Luckily, there was a rest area 1 mile ahead so I pulled in, dodged the pear-sized pinecones flying out of the trees, and ran for shelter.    Click here to see where I was when the storm hit.

A couple of other guys on bikes had also just pulled in and after a few minutes, the hail started coming down.  We had moved our bikes under some picnic shelters (a tin roof over a picnic table).   The wind was blowing and the rain was coming down horizontally.  It cooled down quite a bit too and I actually started to get a bit of a chill because I was completely soaked from head to toe.   The rain lasted about an hour and then finally let up enough to get back on the road.

About 20 miles from the rest area, it was back to 100+ degrees again.  My shirt and pants dried pretty quickly but my boots were still full of water.   As I rode through Dallas and Fort Worth, the thermometer said it was 106 degrees.  I stopped for the night about 10 miles west of Fort Worth and got a room.

This brings us back to the hair dryer in the boots.   I didn’t bring an extra pair of shoes so I needed to get my boots dried out and the hairdryer seemed like the best way to dry them out.

Well, that’s it for today.  From hot, to cold, to hot again.  Maybe tomorrow will bring some tolerable weather.

Miles Today: 534
Total Miles: 2,341
States: MS, LA, TX