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 CafĂ© 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.