A Note from the Editor:
Many a rider with 20+ years experience remembers with fondness the good old days of the 1970’s and 1980’s, when the ubiquitous UJM (universal Japanese motorcycle) was transforming the face of motorcycle touring. A burgeoning line of affordable and bullet-proof bikes enabled a generation of riders to pursue their dreams across America’s highways. Just ask Lynda, whose husband JimmieS picked up a Kawasaki Z 550 in 1980 when she and Jim were newlyweds. Jim would tell you that he knew Lynda was a keeper, regardless of the fact that Lynda was not much interested in riding pillion.
The Z 550 took Jim on two lengthy tours in the 1980’s, multi-week rides over 7,500 miles. After the Z 500 retired, Jim’s upgrade to a Kawasaki 700 took him from California through the western national parks and up to Canada on his last grand tour. Fast forward 10 years to the new millennium, to 2004. With Lynda’s guarded approval, Jim gets a new Goldwing after a two-year retirement from riding. Things haven’t been the same since. Gone are the days of the old UJMs and, along with them, Lynda’s hesitation to ride along for the grand tour.
Join Jim and Lynda on their 2006 Odyssey, from west coast to east and back again, and see how this pair of old friends discovered a new love together. The sights cataloged and miles described will set you dreaming for your own Odessey. Jim and Lynda, congratulations on this most excellent adventure and the re-telling that takes us with you mile by mile, day by day, thrill by thrill.
[BREAK=California to Washington]
I’ve always loved riding on two wheels and will frequently be found on a full weekend ride. My lovely wife Lynda, on the other hand, has always considered my riding to be a little misguided, a personal thing that I’ve loved while she pursued her own interests. She wasn't very happy with me when I bought my Goldwing a little over 2 years ago. But she knew that riding was in my blood.
When I suggested that we take some time and go on a cross-country ride, the suggestion was met with something less than unbridled enthusiasm, but at least a willingness to consider it. I patiently explained that the only way to see this marvelous country is by motorcycle. Over the last couple of years she has warmed to the bike, but still considered it "my thing".
I believe this all changed in 2006 during the last week of June and the first three weeks of July. This period represents my fourth cross-country ride and Lynda's first. This 30 day odyssey had been in the planning stages off and on for the last two years. We had originally planned on making the trip in 2005, but time and other priorities made it impossible to do. This year we committed early on to taking the time off and managed to keep the calendar clear.
I spent a good part of the evenings in March, April, and May trying to get the most bang for the buck in routes and sights to see along the way. This being Lynda's first major road trip beyond the California border (we did ride to Horseshoe Bend, Idaho in October, 2005 for the annual Chiliburger run) I wanted to make sure that she saw enough of the country to understand why a rider will happily take 3, 4 or 5 days to run to a rally or will look for any excuse to "just go for a ride". The final plan wound up being a circumnavigation of the United States. The other concern was to keep the daily mileage as consistent as possible -– no Iron Butt days -- and keep the interstate riding to a minimum, using the slab only to move quickly from point to point. The estimated mileage was something over 12,500 miles. We decided early on that we would break our rule of trying to minimize the interstate for our ride out of California and Oregon as we felt we could always take the back roads here whenever time permitted.
Lynda's co-workers, always interested in what we are up to, decided to track our progress, so I laid out our general route on a U.S. map for them.
As our departure date closed in we prepared as best we could. It took several tries to get everything needed into the saddle bags, trunk and the Packit Rack, but we finally got it all loaded up Friday evening!! We frequently heard the question: "How do you travel 30 days on the road with such limited space?" The truth is that even with the limited space we still over-packed a bit. The other truth is that we used good, high-quality, high-tech microfiber shirts and undergarments to wick away moisture and keep us cool, and to keep the need for layering to a minimum. As you will see as we proceed through our odyssey we wore the same clothes pretty much everyday. But we were able to wash our shirts and undergarments in the room at night and have them dry in the morning. And we did "real" laundry whenever the chance arose.
We were so excited we almost decided to leave that night.
But we actually wound up leaving early Saturday morning. Lyn's spray bottle became an important part of her daily preparations.
DAY 1 – San Ramon, California to Eugene, Oregon
We didn't expect to make any stops on the inaugural riding day, or do any real sight seeing. The I-5 provided the typical direct (albeit hot) ride through northern California. The first stop of the day was in Dunnigan where we gassed up and had breakfast at our traditional stop when we ride through the area, Bill and Kathy’s. We continued north, stopping in Redding for gas and then the obligatory stop at the Mt. Shasta turnout to take advantage of its proffered photo-op.
Crossing the border officially put Lynda in the category of "I've never been here before". We stopped in Medford, Oregon to cool down some and gas up one more time. The temperatures were in the 90's all day. We arrived in Eugene at 4:30pm after 9-1/2 hours on the bike for our first many nights at Best Westerns. The heat was exhausting and Lynda fell asleep as soon as she lay down. She was a real trooper this first day as this was as long a day as she had ever ridden.
Total miles for the day were right at 550.
The day’s route…
DAY 2 – Eugene, Oregon to Kennewick, Washington
We were able to get up and get the bike repacked and on the road by 7:30am on Sunday. Today's plan was to swing by Lake Oswego and see my brother and a quilt shop for Lynda to spend some time in, and then ride down the spectacular Columbia River Gorge before finally leaving the interstate for some back-road riding. The weather was clear and sunny all day long, a little cooler than Saturday had been.
We spent a few minutes at Multnomah Falls along the Columbia River Gorge. The falls are the second highest year-round falls in the nation with a 620-foot drop. It's also one of Oregon’s most popular tourist stops.
We crossed over into Washington at the town of Hood River over the White Salmon Toll Bridge that crosses the Columbia River. The White Salmon Toll Bridge was our first steel-deck bridge. Lynda said she didn't feel a thing. For me, well, I'd prefer a little firmer footing for my front wheel . This bridge was built in 1924 and was raised and resurfaced when the river was dammed in the 1940's.
We picked up Oregon-14 and proceeded northeast with the beautiful Columbia river on our right. And rugged hills on our left.
There were lots of turnouts and scenic vistas.
As we were tooling along we saw a turnout that was crowded with cars and people sitting out on lawn chairs. We pulled in to see what was so exciting. This is what first greeted our eyes -- looked like a perfect motorcycle road to us.
Upon closer inspection we saw that the turns were padded with bales of straw. Looked like we had some kind of a race going on! Notice the very small racers in this next image.
We were a little stunned to learn that we had stumbled across the national downhill skateboard championships. We didn't know such a thing existed. Evidently Mercedes- Benz built and paved the road for its commercials, but is used for other private purposes also. The racers actually skated down hill at speeds reaching 50+ mph -- gutsy, crazy stuff if you ask me.
We continued on, riding through the warm weather of eastern Washington until we got to Kennewick, close to the border with Idaho. We spent our second night on the road catching up on emails, and doing some laundry.
The day’s route…
[BREAK=Washington to Montana]
DAY 3 - Kennewick, Washington to Kalispell, Montana
Kennewick is the most populated of three towns located on the banks of the Columbia River, just south of the confluence of the Yakima and Walla Walla Rivers, so you can imagine the rather bewildering number of bridges and highways there. On Monday morning we had a little bit of trouble getting out of town because of a missed turn. The GPS was also convinced we were on the wrong road, so we got a late start. This was the day we were going to ride up US-12 through the Lolo Pass and into Kalispell, Montana. So we knew we were in for a long day and getting a late start was a little stressful. I told Lynda "Come on, honey -- it's an adventure!" I'm glad she remembered to bring a road atlas with her or we might have wound up in Canada!
We took a shortcut to pick up WA-124 and were very surprised to see vineyards and wineries along the way. I always thought Washington was way too wet to support a wine industry - but I guess the southeastern part is dry and warm enough.
We rode WA-124 for quite a while -- the Lewis and Clark trail – named for our "First" American Explorers.
Over the next couple of days we couldn't believe how much territory these two intrepid explorers covered in their travels with Sacagawea, their Indian guide. We eventually hooked up with US-12 in Delany, Washington and rode along the beautiful Lochsa River through the Clearwater and Lolo National Forests.
Sometimes it's about the ride, sometimes the road, sometimes the destination. Today it was the road. The scenery along US-12 was really beautiful.
The Lochsa River is a very popular summer whitewater rafting destination, boasting some 63 rapids in a 57-mile stretch, more than half of which are class IV and V. We were lucky and caught this group just as they were heading off.
We picked up US-93 just outside of Missoula and rode hard up and around Flathead Lake to our third night’s lodging in Kalispell, Montana. Flathead is an enormous lake (188 square miles) just south of Kalispell. This was one of the first of many vistas where we both said, "The camera just can't capture what the eye sees." It is the largest natural lake west of the Mississippi.
28 miles long and up to 15 miles across!
We arrived in Kalispell at 6:30pm, got checked into our motel and immediately gave into our hunger and chowed down on a couple of excellent steaks at the Bulldog Steakhouse. If you’re ever in the area we heartily recommend it. Keep your eye out for some of their more exotic specials. After the very filling meal we went back to the room and crashed. Great day! The scenery is getting better and better as we head east. Tomorrow: Glacier National Park and the "Going to the Sun Road".
The day’s route…
DAY 4 - Kalispell, Montana to Bozeman, Montana
When I woke up on the 27th of June, 2006 I knew two things. The first was that today's scenery would blow Lynda's socks off, and the second was that she would get a taste of just how big our country is and how big a state Montana is. We left Kalispell at 7:30am and headed on up US-93 to Glacier National Park where we were happily buying our National Parks Pass by 8:30am at the western entrance. The park did not disappoint. I don't think I've ever heard so many exclamations of "Awesome" - "Look over / up there" - and of course my favorite "Stop - I gotta take a picture of this".
President William Howard Taft signed the bill creating Glacier National Park on May 11, 1910. Major William Logan was the park’s first superintendent and he supervised the construction of the Going to the Sun Road, which was funded in 1916. Construction began in 1920 and the road was completed 13 years later. Today there are over 700 miles of roads and trails within the park’s boundaries.
Here's Lynda enjoying the view…
While we Californians are so very lucky to have so many great scenic and riding roads (and, of course, our own crown jewel in Yosemite), I would have to say that Glacier National Park is absolutely another crown jewel in our National Park system. The camera just cannot capture what the eye sees.
The White Pine Boring Beetles were all over the ground at the Logan Pass Visitor Center -- ugly little critter!
There are 22 species of fish in the 250 lakes and streams that fall within the roughly 1 million acres of this National Park. This is bear territory, one of the 60 species of mammals and 200 species of birds.
We left the park at the eastern entrance and took US-89 on a high speed run down to US-287, connecting onto I-15 and finally riding into Bozeman, where we spent the night. The weather today was beautiful.
I'm going to close this page out and start another one to post up a couple of panoramic images of the park.
The day’s route…
This first panoramic is Lake St. Mary, 11 miles long and just inside the western park border.
The approach to Logan Pass.
These next two, well, they used to be one. See if you can join them together to get the amazing 270 degree view we tried to capture!
[BREAK=Montana to Wyoming]
DAY 5 – Bozeman, Montana to Jackson, Wyoming
Today the plan was to head south out of Bozeman to the north entrance of Yellowstone. This park is yet another crown jewel in our National Park System. What an amazing place. During our all-too-short a visit we saw lots of bison, a fair number of elk, a wolf, and all kinds of birds and waterfowl.
Our first stop was at the Roosevelt Arch.
Originally Posted by From the National Park Service:
While in the park we did the "We'll take your picture if you'll take ours" routine with some fellow travelers from Europe. Fun!
Our next stop was at the park headquarters in Mammoth Hot Springs. This is a very scenic place. Hot water, limestone, and algae combine to produce this:
As we continued along the Grand Loop Road we stopped at the same place I’d been 12 years before, when a suicidal bird decided to fly through my bike’s windshield. He didn't make it and my windshield suffered a major crack. I laugh at it now, but it wasn't funny then.
Next stop was in the Upper Geyser Basin where we took the requisite walk. I thought this next picture was interesting not so much for what you see, but for what you don't see. These plants are actually underwater! The water is so clear and shallow and the limestone is so white you can't see it. Pretty cool!
Yellowstone hosts over 2 million visitors a year and I'm pretty sure we’ve all left the park with at least one of these shots.
We'll leave Yellowstone this time with this final shot.
Aren't the Grand Tetons magnificent?
We left Yellowstone and headed south to Jackson, Wyoming. Oh, what a beautiful ride with the late afternoon sun on the Grand Tetons. What a spectacular country we live in!
The day’s route…
DAY 6 - Jackson, Wyoming to Sheridan, Wyoming
Today was the day we wanted to make tracks eastward. And we did just that, through some of the best scenery that Wyoming has to offer. The pictures that my back seat photographer took represent her awe at the roads and scenery we went through. I lost count of how many times I heard the word "Fabulous!!" on this day of the trip.
We backtracked out of Jackson to pick up US-287 which took us up and over the 9,668-foot Togwotee Pass. That was really spectacular. Near the summit we saw a sign that notified us that we were in for a ride through 24 miles of road construction ahead. Oh boy, what a 24 miles that was.
I've yet to be in Wyoming and not encounter many miles of this kind of roadwork:
The guys riding the Harleys were up from Colorado on a 10-day ride, heading back home.
We continued on through the small town of Dubois before picking up US-20, which took us through the Wind River Canyon and on into Worland were we stopped for lunch. Lynda got "shutterbug fever" as we wound our way through this beauty.
Shoshoni, Wyoming is located near the center of the state, just east of the Wind River Indian Reservation. North of Shoshoni is Lake Boysen State Park, a fairly large lake with clean beaches, camping, boating, great walleye fishing and absolutely stunning scenery up through the Wind River Canyon. The canyon is surrounded by many enormous cliffs and rocks, with numerous roadside markers describing the geology. The view was heavenly driving up the Wind River Canyon, through mountain "tunnels", on the way to Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis. Thermopolis is the home of the largest hot springs in the world, in beautiful, relaxing country where visitors can take it easy in the local museums or enjoy one of my favorite activities: whitewater sports. :-)
We made a planned stop in Greybull for a shopping excursion at the Bighorn Quilt Shop for Lynda. Her purchase was probably sufficient to pay their rent for a month or so. We then picked up US-14 in Greybull and headed over the Bighorn Mountains and the 9,066-foot Granite Pass. This again was a spectacular ride -- made all the more so be cause at the top the topography is like a mesa -- a long 15 - 20 miles of relatively straight meadow and forest before the highway takes you down into Sheridan. The highway is a big bike rider’s dream - huge sweepers, technical switchbacks and all on perfect pavement.
Our plan was to ride into Casper and spend the night before continuing east and seeing Devil’s Tower and Mt. Rushmore. We decided to call it a day when we reached Sheridan, Wyoming and have some BBQ at Sheridan's own Buffalo Bill Cody's Bar and Restaurant. The story is that Buffalo Bill was instrumental in getting the Burlington and Missouri Railroad to expand its line into Sheridan by guaranteeing overnight accommodations for the passengers and train staff. He built the hotel and bar and succeeded in bringing the railroad into town. The other story is that the railroad built the hotel and Buffalo Bill just provided the furnishings -- either way, good stuff!
The day’s route…
[BREAK=Wyoming to Iowa]
DAY 7 - Sheridan, Wyoming to Murdo, South Dakota
Today we continued our ride east, leaving Sheridan for a speedy ride down I-90 to Gillette where we had a big breakfast, then continued on I-90 to US-14 to see Devil’s Tower National Monument.
We parked the bike in the visitors center and chatted with another rider who was heading home to Washington. He had attended a big BMW rally in South Dakota and had some route recommendations to share with us.
We learned the Indian legend that the scarring of Devils Tower was caused by a bear’s claws trying to get to an Indian princess in hiding on the tower top. Never did figure out how this monolith magically appeared out in the middle of nowhere.
As we continued east on US-14 we had a moment of terror and excitement as a little fawn darted out almost right in front of us. Some really hard braking and heartfelt thanks for ABS saw both the fawn and us continuing on our way, none the worse for wear. Judging from the amount of road kill we’d been seeing it wouldn't have surprised us if the fawn were an orphan.
We crossed the border into South Dakota, where the weather changed almost immediately and signs welcoming bikers to Sturgis abounded. We got into Rapid City just as the thunderstorm that had been building decided to dump. We waited it out in a gas station and then went ahead to Mt. Rushmore.
Boy, has Rushmore ever changed since I was last there. Concessions, covered parking, shopping -- are all new to me. 90 well-spent minutes later we were back on I-90 making tracks east again. The ride across South Dakota's Badlands was very very hot. By 5:00pm Lynda had just about melted and the town of Murdo was on the horizon (as well as a nice steak dinner and a clean air-conditioned Best Western).
There is a lot to see in the area. We missed Jewel Cave National Monument, Custer State Park, Badlands National Park etc. We decided that this is an area we need to come back to and spend some time exploring.
The day’s route…
DAY 8 - Murdo, South Dakota to Belmond, Iowa
This was a travel day. We needed to get into Iowa where I still have some family. So it was a continuation of the ride across on I-90 into Minnesota and then a quick right turn onto US-169 into Iowa. We arrived in my home town around 4:00pm.
Wonder how this thing handles the twisties...
It was also a day that reminded me once again just how dangerous weather can be. The long and short of it is that we got caught unprepared in a severe thunderstorm on a country road, with gusting winds of 60 – 70mph, driving rain and hail, not to mention the thunder and lightning. I knew we were in a severe storm when I saw the "Storm Watchers" out looking for funnel clouds. We made it to the motel, finally, got dried off and went out for Mexican. The bike weathered the storm OK, but my camera got toasted.
The day’s route…
DAY 9 – Belmond, Iowa
With family and friends for the day. My home town's main street looks the same coming and going
Actually I'm kind of proud of this little town -- it was celebrating its 150th birthday.
The day’s route…
[BREAK=Iowa to New York]
DAY 10 – Belmond, Iowa to Galesburg, Illinois
If you haven't guessed it yet Lynda is a quilter, and there is a popular quilting show on public television called “Fons and Porter” that originates in Iowa. We had to visit the shop in Winterset before leaving Iowa. Well, come to find out Winterset was also the Birthplace of John "the Duke" Wayne and is in the middle of Madison County, so a covered bridge visit was also in order before we continued our eastward trek.
We enjoyed the ride through southeastern Iowa, the Amana Colonies, and through Amish Country. It was nice being off the interstate for a while.
By the time we got to the Mississippi River the weather was clouding up. We could see the storm brewing in Illinois.
It wound up being a brief thunderstorm that we just rode through. The night was spent in Galesburg, Illinois.
The day’s route…
DAY 11 – Galesburg, Illinois to Findlay, Ohio
The ride through Illinois, Indiana and part of Ohio was, for the most part, uneventful. We left Galesburg by 8:30am after a brief stop at Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Sandburg's birth place.
We rode all day, abandoning the interstate in Indiana and taking the back roads, US-24, US-30 and passing through Watseka Illinois, which has one of the best water towers we'd seen.
Some of Mark's (aka Helmetdance's) territory, Indiana:
We finally intersected with I-75 and got a room in Findlay, Ohio for the night. No real "sights" to see and just a few pictures to share for this travel day. Though we did get rained on again. It actually rained hard enough for me to stop because I couldn't see the road in front of me.
The day’s route…
DAY 12 – Findlay, Ohio to Niagara Falls, New York
We eagerly packed up the bike in the morning and headed east out of Findlay on I-75 through Bowling Green and Toledo, where we picked up I-90. We closely followed Lake Erie through Pennsylvania and on into New York. Our destination today was Niagara Falls. The skies were a bit gray and cloudy when we pulled into our Best Western but it held off raining until later in the evening.
We got the bike unpacked and headed out to see the world-famous Niagara Falls. I can tell you that their fame is well justified. Spectacular. Our time was limited in that we were only there for one night and there was enough to keep us busy for several days. Neither Lynda nor I had ever been there before so we both really enjoyed it. We didn't bring our passports with us so we decided it best not to cross over to the Canadian side.
The Niagara River is 35 miles long. It moves water from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, dropping 384 feet over those 35 miles with more than half of the elevation change occurring over the falls. Some 750,000 gallons of water a second flow over the lip. A couple of interesting facts. There have been two times since the falls were "discovered" that the flow of water over the falls has been stopped -- once in 1948 when a huge ice jam upriver effectively dammed the river, and a second time the water was diverted to the Horseshoe Falls in 1969 to allow engineers a chance to assess the possibility of removing some of the boulders at the base of the falls, in an effort to improve the viewing experience.
Arriving in Niagara:
My bride of many years and me at the American Falls:
A couple more shots:
And my favorite of the day:
The day’s route…
[BREAK=New York to Massachusetts]
DAY 13 - Niagara Falls, New York to Plattsburg, New York
New York is another very big state. We left and re-entered it three times on our excursion. Today we needed to ride through the Adirondack's and try to make it into Vermont for our ride through the New England states. We found upstate New York to be quite pretty, but a bit more boring than what we envisioned. My previous trips to the East Coast had always been south of where we were, so my experience wasn't much help during the route planning. I'm sure we missed a lot, but here is what we did find
A couple of shots as we rode through the Adirondack's:
Then we stopped for gas and noticed these -- looks like some kind of flying grasshopper?? OK, you New Yorkers, what are these things??
Our route today looked much like this!
We stopped in Plattsburg, New York for the night. Plattsburg is right on the border with Canada and New York and Vermont. Very cool place! We were only minutes from Lake Champlain. I thought it was very cool to have both flags flying next to each other.
The day’s route…
DAY 14 - Plattsburg, New York to Andover, Massachusetts
I was really looking forward to our ride through New England. Even though we didn't make it into Maine this trip we were able to ride through and visit Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware and Rhode Island.
However, before we made it out of New York we had our first real detour of the trip. Lynda's brother called us and said, "You're in upstate New York, right? Then you should look up our family's old homestead." So a quick Mapquest check led us 50 miles off route to this:
Yes, her maiden name was Thayer and, according to the genealogy we have so far, her great grandfather was indeed born and raised in Thayers Corners.
Getting to Thayers Corners first found us studying this school house, in excellent repair and quite old. We were very impressed with this imposing structure.
We got back on route and proceeded across the border into Vermont. We wound our way southward as US-2 took us down the center of Lake Champlain. This is really a pretty area, a place we'll come back to again.
We made a stop at a "real" sugar shack and bought some original, verifiable Vermont Maple Syrup, and a for-real Maple Syrup flavored ice cream cone.
Did I mention the roads in Vermont were really beautiful, too?
We did take more pictures of our southerly journey through the New England highways, but I think the ones above are the best. This is again one of those areas where we will definitely come back and spend some time.
We wound up in Andover, Massachusetts at a La Quinta Inn for the night. Darn nice place to stay when you’re hot, tired and sweaty (even if it’s not a Best Western)!
Tomorrow we're headed into New Jersey to see our longtime friend's mother and sister in New Jersey.
The day’s route…
[BREAK=Massachusetts to Virginia]
DAY 15 - Andover, Massachusetts to Ft. Washington, Pennsylvania
Because of the distance and time involved we elected to make use of the interstates today to get us out of Massachusetts. We rode I-495 to avoid Boston, then picked up I-90 and went south of Worchester to pick up I-84 which we used to get to the Connecticut border and US-6. We rode US-6 the rest of the way into New York where we crossed the George Washington Bridge to New Jersey for a delightful lunch with our friends. Then we picked up I-84 for the quick ride into Philadelphia where the best we could do is play "window tourists" since both the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall were closing their doors as we were arriving.
Today was Lynda's first experience with toll roads and turnpikes. She was un-impressed. She couldn't understand how or why we had to pay to use a road that the taxpayers have already paid to build and maintain. I explained the "pay as you go” system. If you don’t use the road then you don't have to pay, and the taxes at the gas pump are reduced. The New Jersey roads were far and away the worst roads of any that we rode on the entire trip so my explanation didn’t go over very well and Lynda was quite happy to leave the toll roads behind us.
The downside of riding interstate roads all day was that our pictures are of US-6. Nicknamed "The Grand Army of the Republic Highway" it is a delightful ride. Early on (1937) it was a transcontinental Highway.
And here's a few pics of said highway.
Yikes which way do I go? Sure hope this GPS knows what it's doing.
The only shot we were able to get of the George Washington Bridge. Lynda was very nervous with all of the aggressive traffic.
The Philadelphia Skyline.
And "Tourist through the Window" for the Liberty Bell.
I know how to play tourist in front of Independence Hall.
We wound our way through a number of Philadelphia neighborhoods and eventually made it to Ft. Washington, Pennsylvania for the night. It was an exhausting day.
The day’s route…
DAY 16 - Ft. Washington, Pennsylvania to Mechanicsville, Virginia
Today the plan was to once again play tourist, this time in Washington DC. I had spent some time there about 20 years ago, but this was Lynda's first trip to our nation's Capitol.
We left the hotel in Ft. Washington on an empty tank of gas and a malfunctioning GPS. The only gas station it could find was a little over 19 miles away, back in Philadelphia. We didn't follow its recommendation but instead asked a couple of locals and eventually found a full service station with all of .02 Gallons of gas left in the tank. The attendant was very helpful in getting us on a route into DC.
The ride into Washington was basically un-eventful -- if you don't count getting lost -- as in missing at least three turns, going through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, and missing the Beltway entrance. Oh well, the GPS finally started working about this time and I have to tell you all (for those of you that own a GPS, you'll know what this means) I got real tired of Henrietta saying "Off Route Recalculating". The routes, exits, roads, etc. have changed since the map set that I have for my GPS was produced, causing both it and us a great deal of frustration the last couple of days. But we did finally make it into the Capitol. It's still as beautiful as ever, and the new monuments (Vietnam, Korean, and WWII) all brought a very solid message home to those of us that either lived through the period or served during it. I spent the better part of an hour walking around with a huge lump in my throat. Very moving.
Lynda was quite surprised at the size of the city and the scope of the Mall. With three hours of walking, we were both very leg-sore and weary by the time we made it back to the bike and headed out of town toward Richmond, Virginia for an overnight stop. We were looking forward to a short ride into Virginia Beach the next day and to spending some time with our longtime friend Linda K. before continuing on south through the Smokey Mountains, Blue Ridge Parkway, and onward to Florida before turning right and heading back home.
A few touristy pics of the Washington Mall.
Crossing the Potomac:
From the Washington Monument, looking toward the Lincoln Memorial and the reflecting pool. The WWII memorial is in the front. The Korean War memorial is on the left and the Viet Nam Memorial is to the right of Lincoln.
This is a requisite picture for everyone that visits Washington:
As is this one. Lincoln's right foot is HUGE!
Viet Nam Memorial
Another Viet Nam Memorial
We said our goodbyes to Washington and headed southwest toward Richmond. What should have been a short, high-speed 90 mile ride down I-95 wound up taking us over three hours because of two separate traffic accidents. So much for being able to make up time.
The day’s route…
DAY 17 - Mechanicsville, Virginia to Virginia Beach, Virginia
We spent the night in Mechanicsville, near Richmond, and then proceeded on to Virginia Beach (with a rather major detour to "Colonial Williamsburg") to see our friend Linda K. and her daughter Lindsey. We left Mechanicsville and headed southeast on I-64. About 45 miles into the ride we saw the highway sign saying "Colonial Williamsburg - 4 miles". Well, we had both seen television shows about Williamsburg, so we decided to make a stop there. We really didn't know what to expect and were very surprised to see the huge volume of cars parked in the visitor center parking lot. Once we got into the center we learned that Williamsburg was the gateway to some amazing American history. We only had an hour to stroll around the historic, restored colonial village, and we tried to make the best of it, but there is just too much to see. It's definitely on our "must do" list the next time we make it back into this neck of the woods.
Here are a couple of photos from Williamsburg.
Yes, you can rent them and ride around town.
A very active tourist stop. We almost had to commit a crime to get this picture.
We continued on down I-64 and soon found ourselves traveling under the Chesapeake Bay via the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel. What a trip that was! We followed some excellent instructions and were soon enjoying the company of Linda and Lindsey. Linda was very kind and helpful in getting our laundry done (much needed and OH SO appreciated), letting us wash the bike, and showing us around town. We spent the evening at the beach -- really a beautiful place, and a real tourist destination. They are trying to keep the beach a "family friendly" place, so you will chuckle at the "no swearing" sign.
The day’s route…
DAY 18 - Virginia Beach, Virginia to Roanoke, Virginia
We were able to get ourselves packed up and headed out of town by 10:00am. The goal today was to get to Roanoke, Virginia via the Blue Ridge Parkway, riding through the Smoky Mountains. All I can say is WOW -- this is one of God's little corners in the world. Really beautiful. The road is perfectly kept, the sights are postcard perfect at every viewpoint and, in truth, they can only be appreciated via a personal visit. We only rode the Blue Ridge Parkway about 50 miles, but planned to spend most of the following day on it heading south to visit our youngest son and his family. So far it’s been a most excellent adventure.
The day’s route…
DAY 19 - Roanoke, Virginia to Newport, Tennessee
As I mentioned before, sometimes it's about the destination, sometimes it's about the route, and sometimes it's about the ride. But rarely is it about all three. Unless you’re talking about the Blue Ridge Parkway. One guy we talked to said "I've got 300 miles of some of the best motorcycling roads in the country, what's not to be happy about?" I couldn't agree more. I wasn't riding one of California's techno-twisties with my big touring bike, nor was I speeding down the superslab trying to get from point A to point B. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a destination unto itself and a joy to ride on a touring bike -- or any bike for that matter!
Some of the road we saw:
And a view of the Blue Ridge:
Not a California twisty, but we did do quite a bit of up and downs as we rode from "Gap" to "Gap".
My navigator, photographer, route critic, and much better half thought I needed to be in this shot for some reason.
We stopped at Mabry's Mill, which is still a functional original mill dating from the early 1900's. We were completely impressed with the inventiveness of Ed Mabry and his use of the water wheel that powered the sawmill, jigsaw, and gristmill.
As we were walking up to it, the mill the wheel suddenly started spinning very fast. They were giving a demonstration of the lathe inside.
A shot of the "sawmill".
All of the tools and mill were controlled by a series of belts and pulleys that were moved around to the various tools. They could gear up or down -- quite a transmission!
After our walk around the mill, we continued to Blowing Rock, which took us off the parkway to get gas, and then onto I-40 into Asheville, North Carolina. After 10 hours of riding, we arrived in Newport, Tennessee (which is close to Knoxville). The last hour of riding was spent in bumper-to-bumper traffic as there was a dead deer accident followed by a flatbed 18-wheeler that lost his lumber load. What a (stinky) mess, but we got an opportunity to talk to a trucker next to us on the CB for quite some time.
The day’s route…
Here's a couple of Panoramas from the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Taken early in the morning, the haze is almost purple it's so dark
Sunlight brings the vibrant greens to life.
[BREAK=Tennessee to Texas]
DAY 20 - Newport, Tennessee to Perry, Georgia
Time to make tracks. Our 30 day odyssey was 2/3's over and we were still on the east coast with family to see in Florida and friends to see in Texas and still having to make it back west with enough time to visit the Grand Canyon, etc. So today we took a tour through the Smoky Mountain National Park
Nope, we didn't make as many miles as I would have liked, but we couldn't pass up the opportunity to take this final pass through some pretty country before descending into the flatlands in Georgia and Florida.
We drove through Gatlinburg, Tennessee on US-321. It's a huge tourist trap, but really a very nice town. We then picked up US-441 and were soon at the Great Smoky Mountain National Park entrance.
The highway was well-maintained and full of great sweepers like this one.
A couple of scenery shots we took while riding through the park.
This shot was taken from the overlook at the Tennessee/North Carolina Border. You can see the highway down below. The park is really a beauty and well worth a visit.
Lynda had her first encounter with Boiled Peanuts. (unimpressed) And demonstrated her knowledge of … kudzu.
As we entered Georgia we both wondered where all the peach orchards were, and then I remembered that they kind of surround the Atlanta area, and we weren't anywhere close. We spent the night in Perry, Georgia. The weather was definitely heating back up. With temps in the 90's and very high humidity it felt like we were traveling in over 100 degrees. I knew this was going to be something we were going to have to get used to as the entire trip back west would be through the southern U.S.
The day’s route…
DAY 21- Perry, Georgia to Leesburg, Florida
We left Perry for our ride to Leesburg, Florida with the bike not feeling quite right. At slow speed the front end wobbled badly, and we felt / heard a kind of thumping. The sound and the wobble all but went away as we got up to speed. I thought I had either thrown a wheel weight or the back tire was worn unevenly and was causing the issue. By the time we got to Leesburg I knew the bike needed to be looked at so we headed directly to the Honda dealer in town who was able to take us immediately. The mechanic put the bike on the rack and checked the rear tire out.
What he saw was scared us both. There was about an 8” gash in the tire where the tread was delaminating from the carcass.
We needed a new tire for sure. We were very very lucky that the quality of the Bridgestone was as good as it was. We speculate that we either ran over something or bruised and started a tear (believe me when I say we had some bad roads in New Jersey) with some of the potholes we’d hit. Thankfully they had a new tire in stock, mounted it, and we were off an hour later. Excellent service at Champion Honda in Leesburg, Florida.
We had a couple of hours to kill before our son picked us up for dinner so we nosed around town and found Lynda another quilt shop.
DAY 22 - Leesburg, Florida
Spent the whole day with the kids in Epcot Center. It was good to get off the bike for a day and take a break. Lynda's first excursion into Tourist Land revealed that Mickey Mouse is everywhere, and can be marketed anywhere:
DAY 23 - Leesburg, Florida to Mobile, Alabama
After saying goodbye to family in Florida we made good on the sentiment from a couple of days prior. We made tracks! We hopped on I-75 north and rode it till we could pick up I-10 and head west. Once on I-10 we made good time out of Florida and into Alabama. We once again were delayed by two severe traffic accidents, both caused by thunder storms. We were caught in the downpour, so we pulled off the freeway and took cover in a Waffle House for an hour waiting for the rain to stop. Then we continued onward to Mobile, Alabama for the night. We gained back an hour with the time change, which recovered the hour lost waiting for the storm to stop.
By the time we stopped in Mobile the weather had turned really sour. Several lightening storms and microwave popcorn kept us entertained in our motel room for a bit. Then I was busy trying to change out a low beam headlight when Lynda snapped this shot. I gave up on the headlight and instead went back to the room for a beer and more of the lightshow.
The day’s route…
DAY 24 - Mobile, Alabama to Houston, Texas
Before we left the Deep South I really wanted to have a good sit down Cajun meal. We lucked out and happened upon this little place where we enjoyed a great lunch.
We rode through Baton Rouge and found most of the highway was elevated.
We weren't able to really enjoy much of the "Bayou" country, but we did capture this brief glimpse of what it’s like.
Next time we are in the Deep South we will spend more time along the Gulf Coast, this is the only shot we got of the Gulf of Mexico.
By the end of Day 24 we had crossed into Texas and were ensconced in our 20th Best Western of this trip!
The day’s route…
[BREAK=Texas to Colorado]
DAY 25 – Houston, Texas to Austin, Texas
Wow, the final week of our odyssey! It was hard to believe that we’d gone so far and seen so much (and missed too much!). We were both in sensory overload and looking forward to visiting friends in Austin, Texas.
We left Houston about 7:15am and made it into Austin around noon. The ride was smooth, with the exception of the heat and the Texas State Police – man, they were everywhere! By the time we got into Austin we were ready for an air conditioned room, which we found at… can you guess the name of our hotel??
We were actually quite early to visit our working friends so we spent a little bit of time checking out the city. I was able to find Lynda another quilt shop so she was happy.
We both went crazy trying to navigate the highways down there. Imagine a nice 4-lane interstate, with 2 additional lanes in each direction that aren't part of the interstate, but handle part of the traffic, and have no cross streets, and are numbered like they were the interstate. Very confusing. Friends told us that the reason was because of the booming growth down there. They can't build freeways fast enough.
Here is a shot of some of the Austin Skyline. Anyone know what the name of this building is??
On our way into Austin we ran through this little town, where the water tower wins second place for "Best water tower in the U.S." I was born a Smith, and had no idea I had a town named after me. Just might have to retire here.
I've not said much about the flora we've seen along the way, but boy Lynda captured this one and I was wowed. What's it called??
By now it wasn't easy for Lynda to give up her pillion position, but she did allow DJ a short ride down to check on her daughter's boarded horse.
Lots of fun in Austin in spite of the intense heat all day long. But seeing longtime friends even for a brief visit made it all worth while.
The day’s route…
DAY 26 – Austin, Texas to Amarillo, Texas
Only five more days to go before we get to sleep in our own bed again! Today was another "make tracks" day. We left town with the Austin commute traffic -- don't ask me how, I thought we would be in the reverse commute. But we were out of town and heading north toward Oklahoma without breaking a sweat.
This day would be the hottest day by far that we'd had on the bike. We had to stop every 100 miles, down a 24 oz. water, and soak our shirts and jackets in water before proceeding. The jackets would be dry in about 40 minutes, but it was a cool and comfortable 40 minutes!
After four days on the interstate highways I couldn't do it anymore so I jumped at the chance to ride US-281 for a while. It got us into Oklahoma, where we had to negotiate about 30 miles of road crews laying down a fresh chip coat. For those that don't know, a chip coat is a layer of tar over the existing roadbed with a THICK layer of gravel on top of that. We motorists are expected to "work the gravel into the roadbed". The bike behaved well, although we were following a 18 wheeler, so we had to stay well back and really pay attention.
The temperature peaked at 106 degrees.
Is this Texas or Oklahoma ? (Iowa - Nebraska - Kansas)???
Ahhhh FINALLY the distant promise of something other than these never ending hot flatlands.
This is literally the highest point we saw all day. I knew in the next day we’d be in New Mexico and Colorado and that we’d be getting some really great shots.
We stopped for the night in Amarillo, a ride of some 571 miles from Austin. We were both exhausted. A very hot and long day.
The day’s route…
DAY 27 – Amarillo, Texas to Durango, Colorado
Challenge … 4 days to see the Million Dollar Highway, the Grand Canyon, Mono Lake, and Ebbitts Pass. In Amarillo at the moment, we still had a lot of country to see.
Our goal was to get from Amarillo through New Mexico and into Durango, Colorado. Another 500+ mile day.
We spent a couple of hours in the morning running down I-40 from Amarillo into Albuquerque then picked up US-550 to take us out of New Mexico and into Colorado.
It was nice seeing something other than the endless plains and fields we had been traveling through. The roads were still pretty straight and flat but the scenery sure improved.
We no sooner crossed the border into New Mexico before we started seeing views like this.
This red rock mesa caught our eye.
Finally, some mountains!!
The scenery may have changed for the better, but the roads were staying pretty much the same.
A couple more shots.
Looks like a mini Devils Tower.
Distant Colorado Rockies.
Our first view of Durango.
Tomorrows promise! Red Mountain and the Red Mountain Pass.
The day’s route…
[BREAK=Colorado to Arizona]
DAY 28 - Durango, Colorado to Flagstaff, Arizona
The plan for the day was to head from Durango, through Riverton, Telluride, and then head south into Arizona to spend the night in Flagstaff. Beautiful day in the mountains. I told Lynda that we were going to play in the mountains today, and that's just what we did. US-550 from Durango into Montrose is called "The Million Dollar Highway" -- an excerpt from this web site explains how the road got its name:
There are a variety of explanations regarding the source of the name for the "Million Dollar Highway." One version claims it is based on the value of the ore-bearing fill that was used to construct the road, and another says it refers to the high cost of building a road over Red Mountain Pass (11,008 feet) and the Uncompahgre Gorge. One thing no one will dispute is the million dollar views around every turn. This marvel of engineering, designed by Russian immigrant Otto Mears, slices through rugged mountains as it follows old stagecoach routes and former pack trails. A journey that took weeks in pre-car days is now less than a two-hour journey if the road is dry and the driver is able to resist stopping to enjoy the awesome views.
This was only my second time riding over this highway, and I was as wowed this time as I was the first. I am so jealous of the folks that have this road in their backyard. We’ve gone overboard on today's report, mostly because we want every reader to make plans to do this ride. There is just too much scenery to capture -- once again, the eye sees it and the camera can only attempt to capture it.
It is also here that Lynda for the first time said, "Slow down, I need to take a shot of this road!"
Like I say, sometimes its the road, sometimes it's the destination, sometimes it's the ride -- all three magically came together on the Million Dollar Highway.
We’d spent the night in Purgatory, a resort about half way between Durango and Silverton, Colorado.
When we checked in we were offered a “Queen that sleeps 2, or a Mini that sleeps 4". We chose the Mini. Great view from the window. Fun spot to spend either a summer or a winter night.
The early morning road held a lot of promise for some really great mountain riding.
This doesn't hold a candle to what is in the offing a little later on.
We are racing toward that mountain.
Yup -- that's the road down there. Beautiful. The air, the scenery, the most comfortable scoot in the world -- can't be beat!
Every curve of the road offers ever more beautiful vistas.
Our first view of Silverton. This is without a doubt one of the most picturesque little towns I've ever been through.
Leaving Silverton we headed north toward the Red Mountain Pass.
We made it to the top of the Red Mountain Pass -- 11,018 feet above sea level.
I don't care who you are -- this is a Twisty!
A close-up of Red Mountain.
A couple of road pics.
No guardrail and, yes, the drop-off is deadly.
Our first view of Ouray, Colorado, a perfect town nestled at the base of the Rockies.
We did finally have to leave the beauty of this area and head back south again into Arizona. These Hodo's remind us that tomorrow we'll be visiting the Grand Canyon.
We arrived in Flagstaff at 5:30pm and got our Best Western room. Hot, tired and sweaty again, but really thrilled to be where we were after seeing today's sights.
Looking forward to seeing the Grand Canyon and riding on to Ely, Nevada for the final run home.
The day’s route…
A page break here for a panorama of the Million Dollar Highway, at the top of Red Mountain Pass. Beautiful!
[BREAK=Arizona to Nevada]
DAY 29 – Flagstaff, Arizona to Ely, Nevada
We left Flagstaff and headed up US-180 to the Grand Canyon. The geography in the "High Plains Desert" just amazes me. The topography of riding along at 5 to 6 thousand feet in elevation mile after mile and suddenly arriving at a huge gash in the earth never fails to impress.
We knew ahead of time that we were in for a long day's ride, so I had hoped that we would be able to make the Grand Canyon a "drive by" visit. That, alas, wasn't to be. It was just too beautiful. We spent a couple of hours at Mather Point before I was able to drag Lynda back on the bike for our ride around to the North Rim.
Our route continued north on US-89 to ALT-89, past the North Rim and into Utah and on to Cedar City via US-14. The route out of Cedar City was the two-lane high-speed UT-56, trough some of the most desolate and barren territory we had been in. We stopped in the little mining town of Newcastle for gas and a break before continuing the last 150 miles into Ely, Nevada.
UT-56 is an interesting road in that it runs pretty much straight as an arrow for mile after mile until you get to some low foothills where the road takes a few twisties and then drops down into a valley. It did that no less than 3 times between Cedar City and the Nevada state line. We eventually settled onto US-50 and arrived in Ely at 6:30pm. Much to our horror the accommodations in this small Nevada town were totally booked. The town was hosting a rodeo. Checking at six motels, all we heard was "Sorry, we're booked… the closest room is 1-1/2 hours away.” We were pretty depressed. I checked at the Motel 6 and was told that a cancellation had just come in. Lucked out. So, the lesson here is when traveling in remote areas, particularly over the weekends, it always pays to check room availability before showing up.
How do we describe our first impression? When we parked the bike and walked toward the canyon nothing could have prepared us for the view Mother Nature had prepared for us.
Now this wasn't a feature the last time I was there, but it sure provided a bit of entertainment while we were there. If you can make out the shiny bits… those are coins. I have to wonder two things -- who reaps the benefit of this generosity, and who on earth (how even) do "they" go out and collect it?
Awe inspiring #1
Awe inspiring #2
Awe inspiring #3
Can't get much ore picture perfect than this.
Heading toward the North Rim - Lynda became completely enamored of the beautiful red rocks.
Believe it or not this was our actual view of the Colorado River as we crossed over it. The picture doesn't show it, but we did see it -- far below.
US-14 in Utah -- heading toward Cedar City.
We actually lost time taking this route as there was some kind of ATV rally up there and a lot of cars and pickups winding slowly down the road -- but the scenery sure was pretty.
The day’s route…
A couple more panorama shots.
This first one is at Mather Point:
This one was taken by Desert View.
[BREAK=Nevada to California]
DAY 30 – Ely, Nevada to San Ramon, California
After the scare of having no room the previous night we were really glad to be on the final leg of our journey knowing that tonight we would be able to sleep in our own bed. That thought alone was motivation enough to cover the 580 miles home in one rather long day.
While a lot of folks consider US-50 to be the loneliest road in the country I would have to say that there are more than just a few out there that would give it a run for its money. US-6 is one of them. UT-56 is another. The day’s plan was to ride US-6 into Benton, California then to take one of my favorite roads -- CA-120 -- across to US-395, then ride up to US-89 and CA-4 over Ebbetts Pass to Stockton and a final stretch of freeway home. It's a route many of us have used any number of times and it never fails to leave me feeling very satisfied at the end of the day that I've had a great ride.
The weather was really great riding across the desert in the early morning. By the time we got to Benton the sun was well up and the day was turning quite nice. When we arrived in Lee Vining for lunch at the deli and paid the criminal price for gas, the day was promising to be a warm one. The run up to US-89 took a little longer than I remembered and by the time we started climbing we were ready for some elevation coolness. The great riding temps continued on up over Ebbetts Pass. The downside to our plan was that the traffic was awful with very rude drivers that wouldn't use the turnouts. Very very slow drivers, a torture that lasted all the way to Angels Camp. By the time we turned back onto CA-4 heading into Stockton the temperature was 106 degrees. When we reached Tracy the temperature was 115. It was a baking 115 to 116 the whole way home. We pulled into the driveway at 4:30pm, completing our most amazing trip.
Here are a few familiar pictures of our final day on the road. We left Ely, Nv. at 7:30am because we wanted to miss as much of the desert heat as we could. This is US-6 heading west, arrow-straight for mile after mile. The clouds on the horizon did build to a thunderstorm, but by the time we got there it had moved south of us.
When we made the turn off of US-6 north onto CA-120 in Benton,Ca. the road began to climb.
On this ascent we saw donkeys for the first time along side the road. That was quite a surprise.
I love this section of CA-120 for two reasons: the "Whoop-De-Doo" factor of riding the miles of dips, like being on a roller coaster, and the great Sierra Nevada views.
Here is our requisite picture of Mono Lake, a place I never tire of visiting or recommending to my riding friends.
And here are a couple of the grade over CA-4. The traffic on CA-4 was really heavy and slow. I've not seen it that heavy in the times I've been over it before, which took us by surprise.
And the final one - everyone that's been this way has at least one and most of us take at least one every time we go past.
Lynda kept the statistics for the trip, and offers these:
- 12,060 miles traveled.
- Consumed 316.2 gallons of gas - (about 38 MPG), not bad for a 2-up fully loaded touring bike.
- Checked into and out of 26 hotel rooms.
- Saw 6 National Parks (Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Niagara Falls, Smoky Mtns., and Grand Canyon).
- Saw several National Monuments (Mt. Rushmore, Devils Tower, Liberty Bell, And DC's monuments).
- Colonial Williamsburg
- Saw the country Lewis and Clark explored, and Buffalo Bill Cody's home.
- Epcot Center
- Visited family and friends
- Visited 4 quilt shops
- And, drank countless bottles of water
We've had lots of questions since getting back, the one we've gotten the most of is addressed to Lynda: "Would you do it again?"
Her response: "In a heartbeat!"
Now that's a motorcycle momma.
Jim and Lynda - Signing out
This is my version of our 30 day odyssey. Lynda tells her story via our web site (www.jimnlyn.com) in a string of emails she sent to family and friends while we were on the road. We are in the process of uploading 1024 x 786 high resoultion pictures to our gallery should you want to take a look at some of the 3,000 pictures we took.