Sunday, May 4, 2008

Day 19: San Jose, California

Starting Mileage: 11923
Ending Mileage: 12439

Miles Traveled: 516
May 1, 2008

Got up early and headed out for home. Brian was determined to be home by May 1st because it was the premier of the movie “Ironman”. Hey—we’re a family of comic fans—what can I say? Kyle had bought tickets already so (for the *midnight* show)—we had to be home.

After a couple of hours, we stopped at IHOP for breakfast. The special for the day was a caramel and banana stuffed waffle—which Grace begrudgingly shared with Brian.

Back on the bike…and off we went. It turned out that it was a good thing we didn’t go to Bakersfield the night before—because we went a different way out of Barstow: towards the ocean. Instead of heading northwestward to Bakersfield, we headed on a more westwardly route towards Santa Barbara and then took the coastal route most of the way home. The ocean air was quite a bit cooler…but well worth it with the views we had on the nearly 250 miles of coastal roads.

We made it home by about 6:30pm Pacific time. Everyone was home—even the cat—although Tora managed to look “unimpressed” by our arrival for about 20 minutes…then yowled for Grace to take him upstairs to his food dish. It was great to be able to hug Kyle and Kevin good and hard.

Brian’s mom had a hot stew waiting for us and that was WONderful. We talked about the trip and then tried to unwind.

And yes…we went to the midnight “Ironman” show—and it was also neat because a lot of the boys’ high school friends were there—whom we hadn’t seen in quite a while—it was almost like a reunion. Oh…and the movie was *hella-COOL*--be sure to stay to the END of the credits!

What a way to end a really great adventure! We thought of all of you along the way—y’all were great company.


Friday, May 2, 2008

Day 18: Destination Barstow, California

Starting Mileage: 11422
Ending Mileage: 11922
Miles Traveled: 500
April 30, 2008

Got up early, had breakfast in the cafeteria at Maswik Lodge while checking email and trying to get caught up on the Blog. Then, jumped on the bike and left the Grand Canyon. Well…first we went back to the Watch Tower Point (which was part of the Desert View tour we took yesterday) so that Brian could get one of those souvenir pressed pennies with the Grand Canyon stamped on it.

Grace went to one of the gift shops and, while waiting for her to finish, Brian was in the parking lot talking to another couple who had ridden into the Canyon on a motorcycle. This couple was from Canada. They had said that coming into the Canyon was a bit difficult because of the high winds and dust storm. Thus forewarned, we took off and headed westward—and ran smack in the middle of the very high winds and dust storm. We had experienced gusty conditions during the trip before (getting over to Four Corners), but that was nothing compared to what hit us head-on just before getting to I-40. This made picture -taking for Grace a rather dicey proposition. At one point, she told Brian that the winds (plus the speed of the bike) nearly ripped the camera right out of her hand.

We could *see* the dust storm as we approached. Then…we were IN it. As soon as we hit it, we both shouted, “DAMN! I’m getting sand INSIDE the visor!” Visibility went down to nearly *zero*. The windshield was so brown as to be nearly opaque. Brian pushed steadily forward—and soon we were out of the dust storm…but NOT out of the gusty winds. *THAT* stayed with us *all day*! Grace did her best to “streamline” herself behind Brian—otherwise, she became a veritable sail on the back of the bike. Brian did his best to keep the bike upright—which meant leaning into the wind at about a 40 degree angle. Unlike getting to Four Corners—where the winds would occasionally just gust up and subside, this was a constant headwind, beating at us relentlessly.

We got to Seligman, Arizona—one of the places we had intended to visit. It is touted to be the “birth place of Route 66.” We stopped at The Road Kill Café where we were determined to have a meal (as recommended by our friends Jean and Dean)—because “it’s more tender if it’s off yer fender.” Brian had “Caddy Grille Patty”—a hamburger; Grace had “Vulture and Veggies”—a turkey and ham club sandwich. It was well worth taking this route to get there.

Brian had said that we might be able to make it all the way to Bakersfield, California—which would have made it about a 605 mile trip. Grace said, “Ok…I’ll give it a go.” But the winds continued on and, instead, we stopped off at Barstow, California—about 130 miles short of Bakersfield. We were both just that beat up by the wind. We found a Best Western, ordered a pizza and collapsed.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Day 17: Still in Grand Canyon, Arizona

Miles Traveled: 75 (by bus)
April 29, 2008

These California Condors are ugly, but they are the belle of the ball! Everyone was trying to photograph these birds, but I got the shot! BWA-hahahaha! More on that later.

I booked two bus tours—a four-hour “Desert View” tour and a sunset tour.

Grace and I woke up early, had a fantastic fruit, granola and yoghurt breakfast, and then headed over to the bus area. The bus was completely full for the tour and the tour guide was really informative.

Grace was stunned with the magnificence of the Grand Canyon. She said, “Y’know?—I’ve seen many pictures and postcards and have seen a lot of movie footage of the Grand Canyon—and they’re all very impressive. But nothing prepares you…or compares to…actually SEEING it and *experiencing* it ‘for real’.”

Brian had been there last year with Kyle, so he seemed to be more relaxed, while it took Grace a wee bit to venture too close to the edge or to the railing without getting dizzy. Brian was practically hanging over the edge trying to get the perfect shot of this most Grand Canyon.

Oh…now more about the Condors. After we got back from the Desert View tour, we were back at the El Tovar Lodge—which is right up to the rim. There are several walkways to view the Canyon. At one point, far below, Brian saw several flying around and tried—along with several other visitors—to get a shot of these birds. One of them landed on a ledge below—and soon a second one landed next to it. One of the purposes of this trip was to take our professional photo equipment to document the trip pictorially. Brian was very successful in capturing these birds. From the perspective of where Brian and the others were perched, the birds seemed no larger than ravens. But with a wing-span of about 15 feet, this should give you an idea of how far down the Canyon these birds actually were.

The sunset tour was very beautiful and amazingly serene. Temperatures cool fast, so it was rather brisk. We nearly missed the bus because Brian was still clicking away capturing the sunset and the amazing colors in the sky.

Day 16: Destination – Grand Canyon, Arizona

Starting Mileage: 11228
Ending Mileage: 11419
Miles Traveled: 191
April 28, 2008

Checked out early and headed to Jerome—an old mining town that is built *onto* the side of mountain. Very scenic ride with lots of “S” turns—which made Brian very happy. Grace took some videos from the back of the bike. This whole route was recommended by Scott (THANKS!!). Also recommended was the Haunted Hamburger place—at which we happily stopped for lunch.

Then we headed out down the other side of the mountain towards Prescott Valley to see Barbara & Jerry—parents of really good friends from the Bay Area. What a terrific ride down into the valley. Barbara & Jerry have a FABulous home in Prescott Valley. Grace told Brian, “I want to live here!” So…maybe…just maybe…we’ll see…

After an absolutely wonderful visit with Barbara & Jerry, we headed off to the Grand Canyon. Upon entering the park from the Williams side, we went straight to Mather Point for restrooms and Grace’s first opportunity to stand on the rim, at which point she lost command of the English language – all she has said for the last two days is, “Wow”. The pictures will tell the whole story.

Always one to aim high, Brian rolled up to the El Tovar Hotel in the village and asked for a room. They have four (4) suites that look out onto the canyon from the second floor, and he was hoping for a cancellation. No luck there, but we did get a room on the other side of the hall for one night. The park is very busy, even at this time of year. Go figure. Many different languages being spoken here, German and Japanese in the majority.

So, after booking dinner reservations for tonight and a couple of tours for the next day, we set off to find a room for our second night. Bright Angel Lodge sits next to El Tovar on the rim, but no luck there. We next rolled up to Maswik Lodge and hit paydirt.

Day 15: Still in Sedona, Arizona

Miles Traveled: Zero
April 27, 2008

Forgot to mention yesterday that when we rolled into Sedona to get a room, we thought this might be the first time we got skunked. Y’see, Brian said this whole trip was gonna be by the seat of our pants—no reservations…anywhere. Sedona is a very popular place for tourists and, by the time we rolled in, it was crowded and people were already pouring into hotels in droves. We stopped by the first Best Western hotel—and sure enough—they were booked solid. But they told us there was another Best Western on the other end of town. We asked them to call ahead for a room—and we got one. But, on the way over, Brian said that there was a place Scott had recommended (Scott sees a lot of motorcycles parked at this place), so—let’s just see if they had anything. We got the last vacancy—which happened to be practically an *apartment*: living area, full kitchen and two bedrooms. It has been amazing how lucky we have been with regard to accommodations on this trip!

Anyhoooo, back to Sunday, April 27th. Brian got up early (he doesn’t sleep well when it’s not our own bed) and took even more pictures of the gorgeous red rocks of Sedona. Grace slept in (hey—I’m not a morning person, awright?!) Then we went out for breakfast. Actually got to ride withOUT helmets—which was a treat since it’s the law in California to wear them…it’s “optional” in other states after age 18.

Grace did a wee bit of shopping and then we went to the Cowboy Club Grille & Spirits for lunch. We were waiting for two friends of Grace’s who came up to Sedona from the Phoenix area to meet us. Susan and Lin and Lin’s husband John arrived and we had a great lunch (oh—and by the way, Prickly Pear Margueritas—made with real cactus juice—is purty good!) After lunch, Brian went back to the room to do some work and the rest of the crew hit downtown Sedona’s abundant shops. This was a great day with great friends!!

Lin, Susan & Grace

John & Brian

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Day 14: Destination - Sedona, Arizona

Starting Mileage: 11054
Ending Mileage: 11228
Miles Traveled: 174
April 26, 2008

This is the view from Scott & Mercy’s roof at sunset. Wow! The view from the living room is just as good, it comes with comfy couches and chairs. I’m getting ahead of myself, though ...

We left Holbrook via I-40 so we would pass by the Meteor Crater. Big hole, nice facility (though a little pricey) and comes complete with the Apollo 13 space capsule. Turns out the landscape inside the crater is so much like the moon that NASA trains the crews here, tests new equipment, etc. Back on the road, the landscape took on a new look as we neared Flagstaff: Less dry, flat and barren and more like the Sierra foothills – lots of trees, rolling hills, an occasional creek. As we turned south on 89A and pointed ourselves to Sedona, we passed through Oak Creek Canyon. What a beautiful place! The winding road down to the canyon floor is a little rough, what from the snow plows and all, but the floor is populated with campgrounds, motels and lots of space. Lots of trees, which make photographing the impressive canyon walls from the back of a motorcycle kind of hard, but it looks like a great place to camp. Then you reach the mouth of the canyon...

I hadn’t done much research on Sedona, so really wasn’t prepared for the awesome beauty that was waiting for us. Am I using beauty/beautiful a lot? There is no other way to describe it. Grace says try: Beee-YU-ti-ful!! I like red in the landscape, and this place is loaded. The rock formations that make up the valley surrounding the town of Sedona can be viewed from everywhere, especially in the center of the main intersection in town.

Scott & Mercy (view/living room/Wow!) took us to dinner at APizza Heaven on the West side of Sedona, a nice place frequented by the locals. Good food, nice atmosphere, lots of friendly people.

Day 13: Holbrook, Arizona

Starting Mileage: 10664
Ending Mileage: 11054
Miles Traveled: 390
April 25, 2008

Temperatures are still on the cool side, so Grace is bundled up for this ride. Along the route we passed the Very Large Array (VLA), those radio antennae you see in the beginning of the movie “Contact”, and crossed the Continental Divide at 7700 ft, crossed into Arizona.

We reached the 4K mile-mark of our trip. The area is dry and a little hilly, so it offers enough variety to keep your attention. We worked our way up to the Petrified Forest National Park and stopped for some pictures, then rolled into Holbrook for the night.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Day 12: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Miles Traveled: Zero

Spent an extra day in Albuquerque so Grace and Jo could catch up on things, do a little shopping for Indian jewelry and tour the area. Brian and Tom talked cars, life and took their own tour of the city. We all met up for lunch and had a great meal at one of those places that tourists will never find without a local connection.

Tom hooked Brian up with his friend Pat who knows the area roads very well and made suggestions for a more interesting route West than I-40. Spent the afternoon washing the bike and getting ready to move on.

Day 11: Destination - Albuquerque, New Mexico

Starting Mileage: 10282
Ending Mileage: 10664
Miles Traveled: 382
April 23, 2008

We headed out of Lamesa—towards Albuquerque, with an aim to stop at Roswell. Hey—we’re sci-fi fans—so ye can’t go through New Mexico without stopping there! As we left Lamesa, we actually got a wee bit of rain! We found a donut shop and pulled over to put on more gear and then headed out with earnest to Roswell. The rain was purty light and didn’t last very long. However, the New Mexico *winds* kicked up making the ride down the freeway one long lean into the gusts. It’s kinda scary to be going down a long straight road in a lean of about a 30 degree angle.

Just before getting to Roswell, Grace saw a small herd of pronghorn antelope not too far from the highway. After soooo much open land throughout the trip, it was quite amazing that we didn’t see all that much wildlife (other than a chipmunk or two at Bryce Canyon).

We made Roswell about 10:30am and went straight to the UFO Museum. Yeah-yeah—we’re such nerdy tourists!

Had lunch and headed for Albuquerque where Grace’s high school friend JoLaine and her husband Tom and son Chris live (oh—and let’s not forget their long-haired dachshund, Darcy). We fought the winds on a lot of flat ground and then started climbing into a small mountainous area, winding down into Albuquerque. That last stretch was windy and the views were spectacular.

It was great to see JoLaine again and what a warm welcome we got from her and her family (although Darcy made it known all the way down the block that she didn’t think much of this big black thing on two wheels). Tom cooked some steaks on the barbeque and we spent the evening gabbing.

Day 10: Lamesa, Texas

Starting Mileage: 9900
Ending Mileage: 10282
Miles Traveled: 382
April 22, 2008

First stop, the BMW shop in Leon Springs which is just outside of San Antonio. Got stuck in traffic and met a local rider who was on his way to meet friends and take a ride in the hills to the Three Sisters area; he invited us to join them, but the tire replacement can’t wait.

Brian bought the tire and installation at Alamo BMW. While they were working on the bike, Debbie and Tony Diaz picked us up and we went out for breakfast. Debbie and Tony have property off of Hwy 46 in the San Antonio area and will be moving out here from San Jose in a couple of years. After a great meal, they dropped us back at the BMW shop.

We picked up the bike and headed back to San Antonio to see the Alamo. I always thought the Alamo had a lot more “real estate” around it—like the wild west. But instead, the City of San Antonio is built all around it. But the historical information about the place is moving and impactful. We were glad to have visited it. Thanks again to Daniel for the history lesson he gave us. Hearing from Daniel sparked a deeper interest in the place.

Then we headed westward towards Albuquerque, New Mexico. Too far for one day’s ride, so we broke it up into two legs. The drive out of Texas was lonnng! Well—Texas *is* huuuge! The western part of Texas is rather flat and brown. With nothing much to look at on this leg, the ride was a wee bit tedious. Grace can fall asleep anywhere—including on a motorcycle going 75-80 mph! Several times, Brian had to yell through the speaker for Grace to wake up and stop leaning on him. Thus…we chose to call it a night in Lamesa, Texas.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Day 9: Destination - Austin and San Antonio, Texas

Starting Mileage: 9688
Ending Mileage: 9900
Miles Traveled: 212
April 21, 2008

Left Kathy's and headed for Austin to see Brian's friend Jim Faust for a “drive-by” visit. Found his house with no problems up in the Austin foothills, got the tour (niiice house!) and met the dogs, Junior and OD (Other Dog). Sat and chatted for a while—Jim plied us with cold drinks which were very welcomed on this hot and humid day in Texas! Putting our gear back on to get on the motorcycle was HELL.

Next we headed out for San Antonio. Bike needs a new back tire, so Brian contacted a BMW shop in the area. Couldn’t get there before they closed, so set it up for the next day.

The Fiesta Festival was happening at this time--a week's worth of festivities--happening annually. Brian's Dad, John and wife Bea were heading there on a bus tour from South Carolina—to arrive today as well. Our friends Tony and Debbie Diaz from San Jose were also going to be there. One of the festivities was a floating parade along the famous River Walk. John and Bea’s tour had reserved seating along the River Walk for this parade.

John and Bea had rooms at the Marriott and luckily, we were able to get a room there as well. We went to dinner at Rio Rio along with another couple from their tour Saul and Alice. After dinner, they went over to their seating section while we went walking around the area. There was a Dillards’ there and Brian got a new polo shirt. Around the corner, we came across the Alamo—but it was closed due to the festivities. We walked around s’more and found a place up on street level and looked over the concrete railing and saw the crowd seated along the River Walk awaiting the floating parade to begin. We saw Brian’s Dad and Bea down below and waved. We were not allowed to stay on the bridge, so we found another place to overlook the River Walk. The parade started and we watched for a short while and then headed back to the hotel.

Day 8: Houston, Texas

Miles Traveled: Zero
April 20, 2008

Well--we aimed high...but fell short...because Grace woke up, wondered what time it was, looked on our computer (which was still on California time) which said it was 6:45am--which meant it was 8:45am Texas time. Kathy just grinned and giggled when we came into the kitchen much later than we had targeted. Kat drove us all to Houston...apparently the scenic route ...which translates missed a turn. But hey--I don't care how long I lived in Houston--or Texas for that matter--the highways there *are* confusing. We got to the Museum and toured the Pompei Exhibit. What a magnificent exhibit...and very sobering.

Afterwards, we walked around and went to the Sam Houston statue. The whole park area was sooo pretty and it was just wonderful being able to *walk around* after sitting on that bike for hours and hours. While we were walking around, we got very knowledgeable history lesson from Daniel about Sam Houston and the Alamo. This prepared us for when we actually got to go to the Alamo a few days later.

We walked around and made a short visit at the Museum of Science. Outside the building was a huge floating globe/fountain made of marble--which you could easily spin around. I took a picture of the three of them pointing to Sweden--where they will be moving to in a few months.

One of the main things Brian wanted to do while in Texas was to get a steak at the Texas Roadhouse--a place John & Debbie took him (and Kyle) when they were there last year when Brian bought a truck and drove it back home. We went there and had GREAT steak and barbeque ribs...YUMMMM! What a GREAT time we had! Kathy--THANK you!!!

Day 7 Part 2: Destination - Houston, Texas

Starting Mileage: 9483
Ending Mileage: 9688
Miles Traveled: 205
April 19, 2008

We left Killeen mid-afternoon and headed for Houston to see Kathy Blattman and her family. The scenery changed from a lot of flat brown stretches to rolling green hills. There was another change...from dry to humid. Dusk was falling nicely with an almost full moon up over the hills. And...if I remember correctly (and I probably will get this wrong) from Kathy's daughter Kylie's science lesson, it was a "waxing gibbous moon". Apparently, our motorcycle was sooo smooth and quiet, no one heard us drive up. For a moment, we thought perhaps Kat went on a quick errand. I looked into the living room from the driveway and saw Kylie's feet sticking up over the arm of the couch so I tapped on the window. Then they all (Kathy, son Daniel and daughter Kylie) came out. What a warm welcome for weary travelers! Mandy--their black lab, did her duty and growled at these two "space aliens" but soon warmed up and romped and played with exuberance. We went out for pizza and yakked. Back at the house, Kat and I looked on-line to see what we could do in down-town Houston the next day, and settled on going to the Museum of Fine Arts to see the Pompei exhibit. We aimed to get up and leave around 9:30am. Kathy gave us a look like, "Oh--suuuuure--I just BET ye're gonna be up that early!"

Day 7 Part 1: Killeen, Texas

Killeen is where our friends John and Debbie Garcia live. We met in San Jose when our sons played baseball together. We went to their grandson's T-Ball game, took some pictures and had a blast reminiscing about when our kids played baseball together. in the spring! It was great to see John and Debbie and the family again.

We hung out for Isaac's birthday BBQ and had a great home cooked meal. John and Debbie--THANK you--it was marvelous seeing you all again!! Much too short!

Day 6: Destination - Killeen, Texas

Starting Mileage: 8624
Ending Mileage: 9483
Miles Traveled: 859
April 18, 2008

Brian went to take more pictures of the bike in the morning because apparently, once again, there was frost/snow on the bike.

After a quick breakfast, we took off from Dulce, New Mexico and headed out to Texas. There were still a lot of fabulous landscapes to view, and it was today that we finally stopped being able to see the Rockies *somewhere* off on the horizon. Brian had wondered if people living in the area could ever get tired of seeing it. The landscape in New Mexico seems more on the dry/brown side but the rock formations were still really cool to see.

We decided to see if we could make it all the way to Killeen, Texas. Brian said it was a long push but Grace was willing to try since two days were already lost and keeping the next few days’ schedules in Texas was pretty critical with reference to timing.

We kept our stops to short breaks…like stopping for gas or to stretch our legs and to eat a granola bar. But we made it to Killeen…859 miles. It was nice to be received by friends after such a long ride.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Day 5: Dulce, New Mexico

Starting Mileage 8222
Ending Mileage: 8624
Miles traveled: 402
April 17, 2008

Brian woke up early and looked out the window to check on the bike and discovered that it snowed last night, so of course, he got dressed and went out to take pictures. Then he went to have breakfast that was provided by the motel. He came back and woke Grace up with a plate of fresh fruit, a fresh waffle and biscuits & gravy. “Breakfast in bed!” What a wonderful man! First thing Brian said was..."I will never order biscuits and gravy in California again--California does NOT know how to make it!" One look at them...yeah...I agree. And then I tasted it! Wow! No comparison. I guess this means there will be more trips like this to the South West (but I haven't told that to Brian yet) :)

While Brian was out, he talked to several people who said that the way we were headed was closed due to snow. So plans were discussed about heading in a more southerly direction…with a goal to get to Four Corners and to hit Taos, New Mexico.

Leaving Colorado was filled with absolutely gorgeous snowy landscapes. Once again…Grace was craning every which way to get a lot of shots.

By the time we got closer to New Mexico, there was no more snow, so Brian unplugged his gear—Grace didn’t.

The ride into New Mexico was much more open—big huge valleys and vistas, and with such openness came gusts of wind. Brian had the bike leaning into the wind and still going in a straight line.

Brian had been wanting to get to Four Corners since he was a kid. After fighting the wind for about 12 miles, Four Corners was a very welcome break.

The goal was Taos. We were in New Mexico for about an hour and Grace announced that she had unplugged her gear. This was a milestone—Grace is always complaining about being cold. As the early evening approached, it was getting cooler again. We got as far as Navajo City and stopped on a crest of a hill that had a café called “Navajo City Roadhouse.” Good thing we stopped there because not only did we have the BEST hamburger ever (called the Roadhouse Roadkill), but we found out that the pass to get to Taos was…closed due to…more snow. So—we were hoping to get to Chalma before it got too dark and too cold. But we only got as far as Dulce—about 26 miles short. Dusk fell magnificently on the scenic drive…and even with a beautiful ¾ moon, we weren’t on a major highway—a two lane road, curvy and not well marked.

Stopped at another Best Western—no Jacuzzi this time…but still very nice. It was also connected to a small casino. Brian checked it out and it was all slot machines. Not a card table to be found, so Brian kept his money in his pocket.