Day 1 – 6/2/11
It was a bit cool this morning – only about 57 degrees when I left. I took the Thruway to Newberg and then went West on I84 towards Scranton, PA. By about 1:30 it had warmed up to about 75 making it a great day for a ride. From Scranton, I took I81 South to I70West and then I68 West through Maryland to Morgantown WV. I turned South on I79 towards Charleston, West Virginia and ended up stopping for the night in Elkview, WV at around 8:30. Elkview is about 20 miles North of Charleston, WV.
I didn’t hit any traffic or road construction so I was able to go 694 miles today. It wasn’t the most exciting ride because it was all interstate highways but I did get farther than i thought I would.
Miles Today: 694
Total Miles: 694
States: NY, PA, MD, WV
Day 2 – 6/3/11
Coal seems to be abundant in this area with many small businesses that sell mining equipment alongside the road. I saw a couple of 18 wheelers moving various components of the large mining dump trucks. These dump trucks are big. they take up almost two full lanes on the road.
The other interesting thing was the number of yard sales. Every mile or two there was a sign announcing a yard sale. Many of these appeared to be long-term yard sales.
I got to Hazard, KY at around 1:00, stopped for gas, and took a look at the map to see where to go next. I decided to head back out on to the highway and ride towards Alabama. When I got to London, KY I took I75 South through Knoxville and Chattanooga. It was starting to get pretty hot by this time and the sun was out in full force with only an occasional cloud to provide a bit of shade.
From Chattanooga, I took I59 into Alabama and stopped for the night in Birmingham. When I stopped at 7:00 Central time, it was still a bit above 90 degrees outside. The weatherman says it’s going to be 98 tomorrow.
Miles Today: 610
Total Miles: 1,304
States: WV, KY,TN,AL
Day 3 – 6/4/11
I left around 8:00 and headed South toward Lawley, AL which is near the Talladega Nat’l Forest. From there, I took Rt 183 to Rt 80 to Demopolis. It was quite comfortable riding until 10:00 when all f the sudden, the temperature started rising fast. By 11:00 it was 94 degrees and still getting warmer. At noon, it was 97 degrees and still getting hotter. The heat, combined with the humidity made riding very uncomfortable. I stopped about once an hour just to find something cold to drink and cool off in and air conditioned place.
From Demopolis I took Rt 43 South to Rt 84 West and continued on this road all the way across Mississippi. I could only ride for about an hour before I had to stop to cool off. I’ve come to like McDonalds frozen strawberry lemonade.
There are lots of churches in Alabama and Mississippi. Sometimes there were 5 or 6 churches within sight of each other with the majority of them being Baptist churches. There are many places where you see 3 Baptist churches located directly next to each other.
At one of my water stops, I met a nice gentleman from Birmingham who said that this was unusually hot weather for this time of the year and more like August weather. He had just passed through a town where the thermometer at the bank said it was 104 degrees.
Just before reaching Natchez, I turned North on 61 to Vicksburg where I stopped for the night.
Miles Today: 503
Total Miles: 1,807
States: AL, MS
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 on 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 bucket loads. 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
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 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 very thick smoke for over 50 miles before seeing clear sky again. Below are a couple of pictures that show what it was like. These pictures were taken in the middle of the dan and the pink ball in the picture on the right is actually the Sun.
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