Day 7 – 8/5/09

I started out this morning by going into the Arches National Park which was only about 10 miles from the hotel.  The sun was out and it got rather hot by noon time.  There were quite a few people at the park so having a motorcycle made parking in the various scenic overlooks lots much easier.
To say that the scenery was amazing would be a bit of an understatement.  There are rock formations with cliffs that go hundreds of feet straight up and others where huge boulders perched precariously atop of narrow columns that seem to defy gravity.  Since this is Arches Nat’l Park, there also numerous natural arches all over the place.
I left Arches Nat;l Park around 1:00 and went back into Moab to get lunch.  After having lunch, I headed out to the Canyonlands National Park.  Turning off of 191 towards the park there were signs warning that there were ‘no services and limited water ahead’.  I always have 4-5 bottles of water with me as I head into the desert because you really need to drink a lot when it’s 100 degrees outside.
The ride to Canyonlands was quite peaceful with very few cars on the road.  As I approached the entry point of the park, I saw clouds and rain on the horizon.  I paid my entry fee and proceed into the park under overcast skies.  The clouds cooled things down quite a bit and for the remainder of the day, it was actually quite pleasant.  I only hit a couple of sprinkles which actually cooled things down and felt good.
The best way to explain Canyonlands Nat’l Park is that its kind of like a mini Grand Canyon.  I had to travel miles between view points but the view was woth it.  You look straight down a thousand feet to the bottom of the canyon.  There are often two or three different levels to the canyon with different landscapes at each level.
After leaving Canyonlands, I headed north towads I-70.  At one point, there were signs warning that there are no services for the next 109 miles.  Needles to say, i stopped and got gas before heading out onto this stretch of highway.  This interstate highway goes through more incredible landscapes.  I ended up staying in a hotel in Cedar City UT not too far from Zion.

I started out this morning by going into the Arches National Park which was only about 10 miles from the hotel.  The sun was out and it got rather hot by noon time.  There were quite a few people at the park so having a motorcycle made parking in the various scenic overlooks lots much easier.

Arches National parkTo say that the scenery was amazing would be a bit of an understatement.  There are rock formations with cliffs that go hundreds of feet straight up and others where huge boulders perched precariously atop of narrow columns that seem to defy gravity.  Since this is Arches Nat’l Park, there also numerous natural arches all over the place.

I left Arches Nat;l Park around 1:00 and went back into Moab to get lunch.  After having lunch, I headed out to the Canyonlands National Park.  Turning off of 191 towards the park there were signs warning that there were ‘no services and limited water ahead’.  I always have 4-5 bottles of water with me as I head into the desert because you really need to drink a lot when it’s 100 degrees outside.

Canyonlands National ParkThe ride to Canyonlands was quite peaceful with very few cars on the road.  As I approached the entry point of the park, I saw clouds and rain on the horizon.  I paid my entry fee and proceed into the park under overcast skies.  The clouds cooled things down quite a bit and for the remainder of the day, it was actually quite pleasant.  I only hit a couple of sprinkles which actually cooled things down and felt good.

The best way to explain Canyonlands Nat’l Park is that its kind of like a mini Grand Canyon.  I had to travel miles between view points but the view was woth it.  You look straight down a thousand feet to the bottom of the canyon.  There are often two or three different levels to the canyon with different landscapes at each level.

After leaving Canyonlands, I headed north towads I-70.  At one point, there were signs warning that there are no services for the next 109 miles.  Needles to say, i stopped and got gas before heading out onto this stretch of highway.  This interstate highway goes through more incredible landscapes.  I ended up staying in a hotel in Cedar City UT not too far from Zion.

  • States: UT
  • Miles Travelled Today: 446
  • Total Miles: 3,510

Some Photos Added

I added a few photos that I’ve taken during my travels.  It’s a bit tedious to add pictures to this blog so there are only a few of them right now.  I’ll keep adding them as time allows.  There should be a tab above that links to the photos page.

Day 6 – 8/4/09

I left Durango around 9 am and headed west on Rt 160.  After going through some mountains, the landscape turned into desert.  I followed Rt 160 to Kayenta, AZ and then turned north onto  Rt 163 taking me through Monument Valley.   Rt 163 is a long straight road across flat desert with 1,000 foot high red cliffs all around making for some spectactular scenery.

You've been warned ...When I got to Mexican Hat, UT, I went up Rt 261.  There were some signs warning of “unimproved roads” but I decided to continue on despite the warnings.  The road turned into a steep gravel road with ridiculously sharp hairpin turns that bring you up the side of a large mesa.  Of course there are no guardrails so if you go off the road, you fall 1,000 feet straight down.  I think this is the scariest road I’ve ever traversed but thankfully, it was only a couple of miles to the top.
Natural Bridges National Monument

I continued up Rt 261 to the Natural Bridges National Monument.  The park contains some amazing natural bridges carved out of the stone.  There was also an ancient Anastazi dwelling that could be seen from one of the overlooks.

Back out on the road, I happened to see a cow grazing alongside the road.  I had seen many signs warning of cows in the road but this was the first time I actually saw one.  I slowed down and considered taking a picture but then I noticed that this was a bull so rather than taking a chance of getting attacked by a cow in the middle of the desert, I would just keep moving and avoid an incident.

I spent the remainder of the day riding up Rt 191 ending up in a town called Moab UT.   It was a actually a nice day to ride in the desert.  While it was hot, it wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable as some of the time I spent in the desert last year.

  • States: CO, AZ, UT
  • Miles Travelled Today: 383
  • Total Miles: 3,064

Day 5 – 8/3/09

I got started around 9:00 am today under clear skies.  As I rode West on Rt 50/400 across seemingly endless miles of straight highway,  my legs were constantly being hit by grasshoppers.  I’m sure glad I have a windshield.

There are many large feedlots with thousands of cows in large pens.  You always know when one of these is nearby – you can smell them from a mile a way.

As I crossed from Kansas into Colorado, it was about 100 degrees and getting warmer.  The eastern part of Colorado is just as flat as Kansas and I was really getting tired of riding down straight roads.  I found myself looking forward to every slight bend in the road just to break-up the boredom of the ride.

A storm on the horizonAt some point, I saw an isolated storm cloud on the horizon.  It was a small storm cloud, but it was definitely producing rain and I was almost hoping to drive through it in order to get out of the hot blazing sun.  Just when it looked like I was going to miss the rain, the wind started getting very strong and I saw a few raindrops on the windshield.  Within a few seconds, the wind got so strong that I and to slow down and lean to the right just to keep going straight.  I’m guessing that the wind was probably about 50-60 mph because the rain started hitting me from the right side and stinging my face as if I was driving directly into rain.  It was really odd because only my right side was getting hit by rain and when I got through it, only my right pant leg was wet.

A view from Wolf Creek PassAt around 2 pm, I got to Walsenburg CO and saw the Rocky Mountains on the horizon.  It’s interesting how the landscape changes abruptly from flat to mountainous.  As I climbed the mountains, the bike began struggling to maintain speed.  The high altitude really affects the power of the engine.  At about 7,500 feet above sea level, I found it necessary to downshift to 4th gear just to keep going 60 mph.  This road takes you through Wolf Creek Pass where I observed a maximum altitude of 10,880 feet on the GPS.

I got into Durango, CO at around 7 pm Mountain Time.  As I was checking in, I met a couple from Canada and decided to go across the street to eat at a Texas BBQ place.  Harvey and Rose had been riding through the US for the past couple of weeks and we shared stories as we ate dinner.

  • States: KS, CO
  • Miles Travelled Today: 518
  • Total Miles: 2,681

Day 4 – 8/2/09

I didn’t get started today until around 10 am because I didn’t sleep to well last night – probably drank way too much coffee yesterday.  It was a perfect day for riding today.  No rain, the sun was out, and it was nice and warm.

I took I-40 about 20 miles past Oklahoma City and stopped to eat lunch around 2:00.  I decided to head north on Rt 281 through Oklahoma towards Medicine Lodge Kansas.   Rt. 281 is a nice smooth road that goes north towards Kansas.  There were very few cars on the road and the speed limit is 65 so it’s a nice easy ride.

There were a number of small towns along 281.  Many of these towns seemed to have more vacant buildings than non-vacant ones.  While I wouldn’t call them ghost towns, they certainly didn’t appear to be thriving either.  Between towns there are large expanses of  land with bright red dirt that appears to be used primarily for cattle grazing.  There wasn’t a lot of land with crops planted until I got to the northern part of Oklahoma.

P51
P51

Riding into a small town about 20 miles from Kansas, I spotted two P51 Mustangs parked in a small airport.  I turned into the airport to take a closer look at them.   They were fully restored and in perfect condition.  I talked with a local gentleman how explained that this was their home airfield and they had just returned from the airshow at Oshkosh.

When I got to Medicine Lodge, I decided that I’d head to Dodge City and find a hotel for the night.  On the way to Dodge City, I passed through Greensburg, Kansas.  Greensburg was levelled by an F5 tornado a couple of years ago.  The story of this town’s disaster and their efforts to rebuild are on a TV show on the “Planet Green” channel.

All-in-all, it was a great day of riding.

  • States: OK, KS
  • Miles Travelled Today: 480
  • Total Miles: 2,163

Day 3 – 8/1/09

I got started this morning around 9:00.  The sun was shining and it looked looked like a good day for a ride.   However, the national weather report showed a band of storms from the Great Lakes down to the Gulf of Mexico so I knew that I was going to hit rain sometime during the day.

About 50 miles West of Memphis, the rain started.  I stopped, got gas, and put the rain gear on again.  I hit a downpour about 2 miles down the road and after about 25 miles in the rain, I had to pull off because I really couldn’t see where I was going.  After eating lunch, the rain had slowed down enough to get back on to the road.  It finally cleared up as got to Little Rock.

Sometimes it amazes me just how abrupt changes in geography can be.  As I crossed the Mississippi River from Tennessee into Arkansas, the land changed from hilly to totally flat.  Arkansas seems to be flatter than Midwest states such as Iowa and Nebraska.  Western Arkansas has hills and mountains but the eastern part was just flat farmland.

One odd thing about today was the number of vehicles with tire and wheel problems.  I saw 4 or 5 cars with flat tires and 2 cars where one of the front wheels was gone and the car was resting on the brake rotor.  Then, late in the afternoon I saw a tractor trailer on the side of the road with a torn up front fender and no front tire.  I’ve travelled a lot of interstate highways and have never seen this many tire problems in a single day.

The last couple of hours were a nice easy ride.    With the sun behind the clouds, it was a little cool but still comfortable riding with a sweatshirt.  Armadillos seem to make up the majority of road-kill here.  I stopped at a Motel 6 about 20 miles into Oklahoma in a town called Sallisaw.

  • States: TN, AR, OK
  • Miles Travelled Today: 614
  • Total Miles: 1,683

Day 2 – 7/31/09

Blue Ridge Parkway
I got started around 8 am under cloudy skies.  I rode to Waynesboro, VA and started down the Blue Ridge Parkway.   The road is a simple 2 lane road that winds along the top of the mountains.  The road is in good condition and the speed limit is 45 mph.   There aren’t any tough hairpin turns or ridiculously steep grades making it a nice comfortable ride at 40-45 mph.

The scenery on this road is fabulous.  There are green mountains and valleys everywhere you look.  While the clouds often limited what could be seen, they also added to the beauty of the landscape.   There are plenty of places where you can pull off the road to enjoy the view and take pictures.A view from the Blue Ridge Parkway

About 20 miles from the beginning of the Parkway, I began seeing some raindrops on the windshield and riders coming from the other direction had rain gear on.  I pulled over and put mine on before I got too wet.  It didn’t rain very hard, and thankfully, it was in the mid 70’s so it wasn’t cold or uncomfortable riding.  There were a few sections of the road where clouds almost completely obscured the road making it hard to see more than 30 feet in front of you.

I went about 125 miles on the Parkway before exiting near Roanoke, VA at around  2:00.  I was hungry and wanted to start heading towards Tennessee.  I got back on to I-81 and headed for Knoxville.

Thankfully, I still had my rain gear on because I rode through about 2 hours of light to moderate rain.  It was kind of frustrating because a few miles to my right I could see blue skies but to the left was rain.  As luck would have it, the edge of the rain followed the road for about 100 miles.  Every time it looked like I was headed for clear skies, the road would turn back into the rain.

The rain subsided as I neared Bristol TN at around 4:30.  I stopped for gas, took my rain gear off, and headed back out.  I had to stop one more time to put it back on because there was a ominous looking cloud up ahead.  As it turns out, that cloud didn’t produce any rain but later on, I rode through a stretch of highway that was quite wet.  While it didn’t actually rain on me, the road spray from cars and trucks made it seem like it was raining.

I stopped for gas again just past Knoxville.  Convinced that it wasn’t going to rain again, I once again took the rain gear off.  The remainder of the ride was actually quite pleasant with no more rain or wet roads.

I finished up in Cookville TN about 75 miles east of Nashville.  I stopped at a Super 8 motel and checked in only to find out my credit card was declined.  Since this happened last year, I knew what the problem was so I paid for the room with another card.  What happens is that the credit card company sees the card being used for multiple gas purchases across a number of states and it flags it for fraud.  Since this happened last year, I spoke with them Thursday morning before I left and told them that I was going to be travelling but apparently, that didn’t prevent the computer from automatically de-activating the card.  I called them and explained what was going on and they assured me that it won’t happen again.  We’ll see …

  • States: VA, TN
  • Miles Travelled Today: 550
  • Total Miles: 1,069

Day 1 – 7/30/09

I left around 9:00 am this morning.  By the time I filled-up with gas and a bought new toothbrush, it was around 9:30.

I took I-88 to Binghamton and then turned south on I-81 through Pennsylvania.   About 2:00 in the afternoon just past Scranton, road construction slowed traffic down to about 1 mph for about 1/2 mile and then finally stopped traffic completely.   I shut the bike off and put the kickstand down and took my jacket off.  After a few minutes, I went back and started talking to a guy in the truck behind me.  He’s originally from Oswego NY but lives in Tennessee now.  After being stopped for about 10 minutes, we moved about 100 yards and stopped again.  This went on for about 45 minutes  until traffic finally started moving at about 10mph.  All-in-all, it took about an hour to go 3 miles.

I had to stop on I-81 again about 30 miles past Wilkes-Barre.  I’m not quite sure why we stopped because there wasn’t any road construction.  We just stopped for about 10 minutes and then started going again.  Thankfully, this was the last time I had to stop on the interstate.

It only took about 20 minutes to get through Maryland and into W. Virginia.  The State Police in WV were out in force today.  I saw 4 or 5 cars pulled over, presumably for speeding, in a 30-40 mile stretch of road.

I had a bit of a scare after my last gas stop.  After filling-up, I headed back out onto I-81.  When I hit the switch on the GPS to power it up, it didn’t do anything.  I pluged the charger into it and still nothing.  Now I’m worried.  Navigation isn’t one of my strong points so I really count on having the GPS to help me figure out where I am and how to get wherever it is that I’m going.

I got to Harrisonburg VA at around 8:00pm and found a Motel6.  The first thing I did was check the GPS and I found that it has a reset button on the back which I promptly pressed.  It worked – the GPS started up and seems to be fine.

Today’s weather was perfect for riding.  There were plenty of clouds to keep the sun under control.  I drove through a few sprinkles but other than that, no rain.

I’ll be heading out towards the Blue Ridge Parkway in the morning.

Trip Stats:

  • States: NY, PA, MD, WV, VA
  • Miles Travelled Today: 519
  • Total Miles: 519

2009 Ride

In a couple of days, I’ll be heading out across the country on my 2006 Electra Glide for a nice 2+ week ride.

This year, I plan to start the trip by heading south so that I can ride through Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas.  Once I make it through these states, I’ll have been to all 50 states.   As was the case last year, I don’t have an exact route planned but instead, will just take it day by day and see where the road (and the weather) takes me.

The header image on this page is from last year’s ride as I entered Yellowstone National Park.