bliss. The morning I was to leave Albuquerque, I headed to the the Owl
Cafe. I had to use my last opportunity to get huevos rancheros New
Mexico style - in other words, with lots of green chile. I wish I had
remembered to get a photo of the place on the way out - the architecture
is distinctive - but I did remember to buy a black Owl Cafe t-shirt.
was a nice nip in the air as I headed east on old Route 66. At the
town of Tijeras, I turned south along a comfortably bendy two-laner.
Ah, delight - riding through old towns, some of them land grants from
the days when Spain owned the area. Old churches in decaying villages
as I rode on nice curvy roads along the side
of the Manzano mountains.
soon, I came back out onto the eastern plains of New Mexico. The
landscape flattened out and soon oil rigs appeared. Southeastern New
Mexico is atop part of the big Permian Basin oil fields, which are being
awakened from decades of decline by the advent of new technologies.
Before the trip, I had wondered why motel room rates were so high - and
now I knew its because the demand for rooms from the many new oilfield
workers. Simple supply and demand.
arrived in Artesia much too early to end the day, so I cancelled the
motel reservations and rode on. I disliked crossing into Texas - I
enjoyed the “ooo and ah” as people saw the license plate on my scooter
that placed me far from home. Once back in Texas, I was just another
had a bit of a hard time finding a room in San Angelo. It seems the
fracking oil boom has hit there too, and most rooms were taken by oil
wanted to make it home the next day, so Saturday morning, I was up
before the dawn and on my way. About an hour down the road, I found a
bakery in Eldorado. Two things about Eldorado: first, the
run by an Asian couple. When I asked the woman “You aren’t from around
here, are you?”, she replied with a thick accent that she had just moved
from Pennsylvania. I was to find out later that she and her husband
are Cambodian. The other prominent note about Eldorado is that it is
the home of the Yearning for Zion Ranch - the headquarters of the
fundamentalist and polygamist break away Mormon sect which was raided
for child abuse awhile back.
cut across the southern end of the Texas Hill Country, then into the
border city of Laredo. Mistake in doing that - way too much traffic.
But Laredo also meant I was getting close to home, and as rain clouds
threatened, I boogied alongside the Rio Grande until I saw the home
So - was it a great trip?
yes! I loved it - meeting the challenges of riding 3,600 miles on a
400 cc scooter. From the subfreezing morning in Portales to the Mojave
desert, from flat plains to mountain twisties, it was a lot of fun.
- I admit it. I rode into Colorado just enough to be able to say I was
in the state. My goal on this trip was to ride through seven states, and I've done
it. Fourteen states down - only thirty six to go.
night I stayed at a motel that serves Monument Valley. Think the
landscape of a Roadrunner cartoon. Spectacular. Some of the formations
leaked outside the
park and stayed right there waiting for me to
the way into New Mexico last week, somebody had stolen the welcome
sign, so I had to get a shot of the New Mexico sign on the Arizona side.
got to Bloomfield, and while gassing up, saw Blake's Lotaburger across
the street. For a former New Mexican like me, who still craves green
chile, a Lotaburger with cheese and green chile is heaven in the mouth.
Good stuff - and the chile made my chapped lips smart a little.
one time, US Route 550 was the most dangerous highway in the state,
with the three lane road making for many head-on collisions while cars
were passing. Its all four lane now.
the spring winds of New Mexico were about. They got pretty fierce, and
as I rode into Albuquerque from the north, I saw a dust storm
approaching. The gusts were strong enough to make the cars and trucks
with old friends Carol and Larry, Good ol' flat enchiladas with green
chile and an egg on top. Oh yum! The food was almost as good as the
love being in the desert. We once lived in the high desert of
Albuquerque, NM, where the humidity was extremely low. But my body has
become accustomed to high humidity while living in the Rio Grande Valley
of Deep South Texas, and protested the dryness a little in Wickenburg,
AZ, where it was drier than a popcorn fart. I set out on the last leg
of the trip with cracked lips, dry nose and dry skin - and the humidity
had to stop and take some photos of the area - it reminded me so much
of New Mexico, with the faux colonial and pueblo style buildings, with
rugged mountains in the distance.
(Be sure to click on each photo to see a larger version.)
is serious desert from Phoenix to Las Vegas. The road is dotted with
little towns that have largely been abandoned. I loved the name of the
only church in Hope,
had lots of time to think and reflect as the miles rolled under my
wheels. I have often derided the boredom of driving through The Big
Empty of West Texas and eastern New Mexico, yet I enjoyed riding through
the Mojave Desert. I suppose local riders see nothing to like about
the rides through the desert, but would be intrigued by West Texas,
seeing the crop circles created by the irrigation systems, the oil pump
jacks and the (newish) wind farms. I guess it is what you are used to
seeing. I was intrigued by the desert.
are a lot more riders out here in the west than there are in south
Texas. Leaving Wickenburg, I was passed by a rider on a BMW R1200R. I
spotted him filling up, and pulled over to talk to him - a man about my
age. Funny thing, we kept seeing each other the rest of the day,
including while stopped for lunch in Needles, CA.
I traveled to Las Vegas for a military
reunion, and I won't bore you with tales of old men. The older we are,
the better we were. But, it was so great to see Bill Paquette, my
radio operator way back then. I never expected to see Bill again after
he was grievously wounded in 1967. It was also great to see Ken
Buchert, my commanding officer who taught me what it meant to be a good
and honorable officer.
After the reunion, I'll be back on the road and going through a bit of southern Utah.
high mountain town of Eagar, AZ, was gorgeous in the early morning
light. When I went to breakfast, it was 39 degrees, yet when I returned
to my room, it was already 45. The sun was warming the world quickly,
so I eschewed the long johns, yet still wore the other stuff. I filled
the tank at a convenience store that wasn't open yet (but the pumps were
on), then down the road towards Show Low.
was the kind of morning that keeps me coming back to riding. Bright
sun, gorgeous high mountain scenery, no traffic. I came upon high
mountain ponds as well as elk crossing signs, I had bugs in my teeth.
cup of coffee in Show Low, then I began the long drop from over 7,000
feet to Phoenix'
1,500 feet - the change from 39 degrees to Phoenix' 91.
I had to shed some extra clothes as I descended.
must have a lot of motorcyclists. I waved at lots of them as they rode
up into the mountains - I suppose to get out of the heat and to ride
some twisties. Lots of chrome - clean chrome - not dirty bikes like
mine. I may ride a scooter, but at least its not a garage queen.
Stopping for gas in Payson, I struck up a conversation with a three Harley riders, and I fielded the usual "You rode from Texas on THAT?"
One of them had owned his bike for seven years and had 5,000 miles on
it. I've owned my scoot for two years and just turned 27,000 miles.
made a mistake in my trip planning - I routed myself through Phoenix.
Yuck! Saturday traffic - people out shopping, retirees poking along,
and lots of stop-and-go. Once out of the city, I was out on the desert -
very different from the mountains. The town of Wickenburg is a small
artsy cowboy kinda town.
Next stop - Las Vegas after a ride through the desert.
woke up at half past ridiculous, but having gone to bed early, I was
refreshed and ready to go. An hour before sunrise in Portales, New
Mexico, I opened my motel room door and found out it was colder than a
mother in law's heart. Twenty seven degrees was a bit chilly for
I bundled up with everything - long johns, t-shirt, flannel shirt,
fleece jacket, liner and finally, my riding jacket. Long johns, riding
pants liner, then riding pants. Fur-lined gloves with liner. I felt
like the Michelin Man.
was just breaking as I left town, heading west across the last
cultivated land I would see the rest of the day. After an hour, I just
had to stop for coffee and breakfast. My hands were very cold.
coffee, eggs and sausage warmed the heart and hands and I was off
again. The land slowly changed from scrub to short grasses and scruffy
finally I came to the New Mexico I love - the sculpted
rocks with mountains. And yes - the famous fifty four shades of brown
of the New Mexico landscape.
was in Socorro - New Mexico style enchiladas, meaning they are served
flat rather than rolled, with green chile (of course) and an egg on top.
Oh yum - heaven in my tummy.
the rest of the high altitude ride (my GPS showed over 8,000 feet), was
wonderful, riding through
places like Pie Town and Datil.
bike? She gave me a scare as I left Portales as the headlights did not
work. But I think this was the first time she had been below freezing.
After a little warmth, the lights came on and she ran beautifully for
the rest of the day.
found me in the White Mountains of Arizona. A shower was much needed
and much enjoyed. The weather forecast said it would be below freezing
again in the morning, but as the day wore on, I would be riding down out
of the mountains into Phoenix - where it would be in the 80s. Hmmm -
gonna have to find a place to shed the long johns and flannel shirt.
weather front was due to come through Kerrville the early morning, so when the
lighting flash awakened me at 5:30, that was fine with me. Breakfast at
six while I watched the rain and packed up. By the time I loaded the
bike, the rain had stopped. Leaving Kerrville, there was no wind but
the temperature was dropping.
wind came in ten minutes - sharp and from the north. But the Texas
Hill Country is a motorcyclist's dream - lots of twisties and
whopp-dee-dos. The winding ranch roads I took were great - little
streams, old houses, sheep grazing.
(As always, be sure to click on the photo to see a larger version.)
the land flattens out into an area mostly level, but dotted with mesas
and buttes. There are lots of ranches, but cowboy country has a new
industry - wind farms, generating electricity. The West Texas wind is
Went through London.
temperatures were in the high 40s, but it was the 35-40 mph wind that
made me cold. "Hey Doug - there's always wind on a moving
motorcycle." True, but my scooter has a lot of protection - windscreen,
fairing, even protection for the legs and feet. But the wind was from
the north, and I was often traveling west. The cross wind frosted my
right side a bit, necessitating a few stops for hot chocolate. The wind
also ruined my gas mileage. I usually run about 60-62 miles per
gallon, but the stiff wind cut that to 52. One tank was a
never-before-seen 48 mpg. Ugh! That's the kind a mileage a Harley
I moved out onto the plains - not a mesa in sight - just lots of farm
land irrigated with water from an aquifer. The land is incredibly flat.
One town is known as Levelland.
I was leaving Texas, the wind began to drop. The sun warmed me up a
little and I began to look forward to the end of the day's ride. There
was no sign welcoming me to New Mexico, but I knew it without any sign.
The wide two-lane Texas country road with the broad shoulders gave way
to a narrow road with no shoulders - and was very bumpy.
But I was in New Mexico and I celebrated with a bowl of green chile stew.
(Note: I am posting this and subsequent road stories late. For reasons known only to the computer gods, I could not post during the trip. I started this trip on April 17.)
was beyond humid. As I was packing the scooter this morning, I looked
at the sky expecting rain, but the weatherman said no - just low clouds.
I was still inside my subdivision when the humidity became liquid.
No, not rain - just enough moisture to crap up the windshield.
I was off on a ten day ride - five days to get to Las Vegas, three days
at the reunion of the men of B 3/7 Infantry I served with in 1967, then
five days back. Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah
and Colorado. The weather stayed cloudy with a hint of mist all during
the day - and it was windy. Fortunately, it was behind me most of the
the back roads, I came across the Eagle Ford shale area south of San
Antonio. This is brush country, and until recently was good only for
ranching. But the development of the technology known as fracking has
turned places like Cotulla and Tilden into boomtowns. The two-lane road
is traveled by lots of heavy trucks - and had some signs I had never
testing? I knew they were searching for more oil shale, but I half
expected the feel the ground tremble.
refueled at Tilden, then put some more miles behind me before enjoying a
plate of huevos rancheros at a cracked vinyl seat Mexican restaurant in
Jourdanton. Back on the road, I was happy to finally roll into the
Texas hill country. South Texas is boringly flat - not much excitement
riding through endless miles of flat brushy terrain. As I neared
Bandera, the rocky hills began and nicer vistas opened up. The road was
not exactly the twisties, but it was a lot more interesting than the
first hours of the ride.
In my room in Kerrville - tomorrow will be a much longer day.
I've made the trip from the Houston/Galveston area before - there's no sense in boring the reader with all that. Besides the fact that temperatures were well into the 90s and I ran into a stiff wind all day, the last leg of the trip was unremarkable.
But the whole trip - the entire 3,085 mile trip - was fabulous! I enjoyed every single minute of it - even the rain-soaked days, the times I was on the Interstate, the times when I got lost, the times when I was flipping up my helmet to sneeze. All of that was enjoyable.
Why did I enjoy it?
My answer is similar to that of the mountain climber - a variation on "Because its there." It was challenging and I found that I had set a challenge for myself that I could meet.
For me, a large part of the quality of life is determined by taking risks - calculated risk. Different people may calculate their risks differently, and I am not just talking about physical risk. Going to live in Việt Nam is an example. There was no physical risk involved - Việt Nam is a very safe place to live. But, living there meant I had to retire early and that incurred financial risks. As any investor knows, the greater the risk, the better the potential payoff. The "investment" in going to Việt Nam has paid off handsomely for Cindy and me. Our reward is to have these wonderful Vietnamese kids in our lives.
Risk keeps you sharp. If you are trying to mitigate the possible harm from taking a risk, you must think and plan and work. I like that. My terror lies in becoming a TV vegetable, rendered incapable of thinking or doing, but only sitting in front of the television. I truly believe God gave each of us something important to do with our lives, and if we are afraid to take risks, we are afraid to accomplish what we are called to do.
If you are familiar with real Christianity, you know it requires the follower to take what is perceived as a huge risk - you are asked to trust God. Yes - I am aware that combining motorcycle riding with Christianity is a bit strange, but the connection is that to do either requires taking risks.
Riding long distances on two wheels satisfies the need to take risks. To be honest, there is little physical risk. Ask any motorcyclist - riding city streets is much more dangerous than riding highways. But, being out in the weather is invigorating, as is the view. You see things from a bike that you don’t see from a car.
I don’t have a music system on my bike - and that is on purpose. Being a bit of a loner, I enjoy the time to have conversations with myself - to think about things - to ponder - to be introspective. Maybe I could have been a monk, except I’m not crazy about the celibacy thing.
Most riders are surprised I took such a long trip on such a small bike. Yeah - 400cc is kinda small, and while I can cruise comfortably at 65-70 mph, there were a few times when I would have liked to have a few more ponies under me.
Will I do it again? Oh yeah - I have some ideas rattling around in my head.
The ride from Crowley, LA, to Houston was scheduled to be the shortest day of the ride -a mere four hours. I wanted to enjoy dinner with Trang, now a doctoral student at the University of Houston, so I planned to take my time, yet still have time to get into my motel room, then ride to her apartment.
From this photo, taken in a tiny town near the coast, can you tell what area I am in? Its Cajun country - the "French Culture" as they refer to it. The small town of Gueydan is in the heart of the state's rice growing area and calls itself "The Duck Capital."
(If you can't read the top line of text on the sign, click on the photo and you will see a larger version.)
As I ride through the rural American South and in many rural areas of West Texas, I see places like this.
Seeing them makes me curious - what is the story behind these old broken homes? Was there a family fight when the family scion passed away? Did the kids move away from home to find a job? Did the former owners just get tired of floods and hurricanes? I'll never know, of course, but it is fun to let the imagination run wild while riding.
But I soon came to Lake Charles, Louisiana, and I got on the Interstate.
Yuck - how I dislike the Iinterstate when I'm riding. Oh, the bike does just fine, but the noise of the big trucks when they are right next to you is deafening. People drive too fast - or worse, too slow - and nobody seems to see the world outside their windows. I crossed the river and the state line, then got off the super slab and back onto some small roads. I found a Mexican cafe for lunch, then launched into Houston traffic, headed for the area around Hobby Airport on I-45. Again - the definition of craziness is the interstate highway.
As always, it did my heart wonders to spend time with Trang. Strangely, we didn't go out for Vietnamese food as I didn't want to ride all the way over to the Bellaire area. It spooks me to have her on the back of the bike without her wearing real protective gear.
As I rode back to my motel room after saying goodbye, I thought about the next leg of the trip was ahead. Eager to get home, yet truly enjoying the trip.