Friday, 24 August 2012

CHAPTER 22



DAY 52. LAS VEGAS TO BISHOP. 541 km


Today was " D Day " - Death Valley day. There was a certain amount of trepidation in the camp as recent temperature recordings in the valley were 51 Deg C , 50 Deg C, 51 Deg C etc etc. in other words bloody hot consistently day after day.

So the cunning plan hatched over a few beers in Las Vegas was to hit the road by 6 am at the very latest and get thru Death Valley before to much of the afternoon heat. And I was a little worried as to how the air cooled BMW engines would cope with the 4,000 ft climb out of the valley in those conditions. Such conditions of course do not exist near the Munich testing grounds in the Bavarian hills.




Somewhere up on that hill is a sign that says sea level -



Minus 268 ft !



Well would you believe dear reader , and I kid you not, but it rained on us in Death Valley and we got cold. They get about one inch of rain a year in Death Valley. Just before we got there there was one and a half inches of rain. There was flooding on the roads ! We was robbed of the traditional Death Valley greeting. Or is the talk of high temperatures just an over hyped marketing myth ? We will never know.

So we pop out of Death Valley to the town of Bishop glad to get some real Californian heat and some sun.

Yes, Death Valley is quite an experience and some of the colors were just superlative.


DAY 53. BISHOP TO MARIPOSA VIA YOSEMITE. 367 km

Wow, what a day as they say. I think Yosemite is the pick of the Parks and it was all aided by a brilliantly clear day. There was none of the heat and smoke haze we had had with most of the other parks. And I like dramatic rocks so for me seeing El Capitaine was like being in paradise it is a 4,000 something vertical rock wall that is the holy grail for rock climbers .





El Capitain itself



Vista after vista after vista after vista...........









Look Mum - No hands!



I would have loved to have had a go climbing to the top of El Capitaine. However I realized that the one meter Katmandu stretchy clothesline that we had in the panniers would not really be up to the task as a climbing rope. Sigh! Another time perhaps!

My heart was singing as we rode into Mariposa at 6pm as the sun started to drop into the west.
 .

DAY 54. MARIPOSA TO MONTEREY             250 km

Today the Hubbards crossed California! It was a cross country sort of day as we went virtually right across California to Monterey on the Pacific coast. As all the budding Vice Presidential candidates from round here would say - they can see New Zealand from their house! Apologies to Sarah Palin!

Si it was lovely rural scenes with lots of fields of all sorts of sundry crops from Pistachios to Dates to Tomatoes. We passed thru the town of Chowchilla. What a delightful name and it sounds a little like a brand name for a chutney !

And Monterey is the place of Cannery Row as immortalized by Steinbeck and reimmortalized by the local Chamber of Commerce. Actually I think we are in Carmel County where Clint Eastwood is still mayor. And I can tell you from personal experience that acting ability is a handy per requisite for being a mayor!

We are now tantalizing close to Los Angeles and within the range of the Angelino weekend warriors. Two more days and we hang up our riding boots as we leave our steads in the care of BMW motorcycles of West Hollywood .




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Tuesday, 21 August 2012

CHAPTER. 21



DAY. 49. TORREY TO KAIBAB.         545 km

The first theme of the day was. " Oh Dear ". This was caused by deer coming out of the bushes and crossing the road or threatening to cross the road in front of the bike. Not a good look !

Then we came around a corner and there was a pickup truck with two chaps on camouflage gear standing on the tray. The truck was moving slowly down the road and they were scanning the bushes on the side of the road. They had bows and a quiver of arrows each As I passed I Dort of half waited for the sensation of an arrow piercing the gap between my shoulder blades. Then I realized that it was not my problem. I had Diana on the back shielding me! She is a good wife!

From there it was a trip down thru Escalante and then down to Bryce National Park. Another glorious Park. In fact I think Bryce might be the pick of the bunch for all the parks we have visited






From Bryce it was on to Zion National park which can only be accessed by shuttle buses. Given the narrowness of the chasm this is understandable as the area would just be swamped if the RV's and cars were allowed in.

Beauty of almost biblical proportions!








As we emerged from the park we looked up to see a ginormous thunderstorm approaching. The sky over Zion was as blackas the ace of spades and there was thunder and lightening. We beat a hasty retreat although not without bein rains on heavily. Then a simple navigation blunder by yours truly saw us having to do a long 180km ride into the early evening instead of a gentle 70 km one. To compound the problem we were riding up into the heights of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We arrived at Kaibab Lodge just short of the Grand Canyon just as dusk was turning into night. It was a very cold last half hour on the bikes. It had also inadvertently been a 12 hour day.


DAY. 50. KAIBAB TO LAS VEGAS.              430km

A day of extreme contrasts. First it was down to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The North Rim has only 5% of the visitors of South Rim. Because it is higher than the south rim it has heavy snow in winter and is therefore closed for the winter 5 months



Regardless of all the photos the Grand Canyon still takes your breath away and to stand on the rim is a very special feeling




On leaving North Rim I encountered a problem. It was women problems that was resolved by an untimely death. Now that I have your attention let me explain !

Diana and I are linked by a Bluetooth communication device with speakers in our helmets so we can talk to each other as we travel. Also connected to this system is my GPS. Inside my GPS lives the lovely Karen who gives me route instruction. The problem is that when Karen comes thru with my turning instructions she has priority over Diana and cuts her off in midstream to say something. I should add that since I bought my GPS in New Zealand and it came out of Australia to add insult to i jury Karen has a characteristic strong and forceful Australian voice.

Well Diana complained about Karen cutting her off so abruptly and rudely and I realized I had a problem women problem!

Would you believe that no more than 2 hours after Diana complained about Karens behavior we found ourselves belting down the Interstate highway to Las Vegas at the slightly scary speed of 125 km per hour. As we came down a hill I felt a light touch on my leg. I was puzzled as I had never felt this before. Then 5 minutes later the shock hit me. Karen was gone ! Where the GPS should have been on the handlebars was an empty bracket with no GPS in it. The slight brush on my leg was Karen leaving my bike at extremely great velocity. I am afraid to say Karen is dead and now lying on a motorway verge somewhere on the way to Las Vegas. May she rest in "pieces" !

Anyway In Las Vegas I have found a new GPS. The new resident in the GPS has been called "Liz" because of her beautifully modulated English tones. I fear however she will interrupt as much as Karen. And I can't afford to lose two women!

To finish off this sad day we rode into Las Vegas in 41 degree heat. Our route took us down the famous "Strip". Never in my wildest dreams didI I imagine that Dick and Diana Hubbard would be riding two up Ina motorcycle right down the Strip in Las Vegas. Life does take strange turns


DAY 51. REST DAY IN LAS VEGAS

What a contrast from the places we have been to ! What an you say about Las Vegas other than it is surreal!





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Sunday, 19 August 2012

CHAPTER 20



DAY 42 SALT LAKE CITY TO CRAIG. 470km


If you have to leave Salt Lake City and are worried about the traffic then 7.00am on a Sunday morning is a pretty good time to do it. The sunrise was spectacular as we headed over the pass to the East
We stopped at Vernal for a break about mid morning. The town was delightful with about 2km of hanging baskets in the street and hundreds of American flags. I have always been not sure about excessive displays of patriotism but somehow this seemed to not only be appropriate but rather touching. I have to sat the American flag does look good and it reinforces my thoughts that we need a radical revamp of the New Zealand flag.




Then it was a stop at the dinosaur quarry where you can see the dinosaur bones bedded in the rock. At 64 million years old they do have a bit of age
"The thigh bone is connected to the hip bone and the hip bone is connected to......"




Certainly in another 64 million years I do not think they will find any bones of Hubbardartis Rex but who knows. Perhaps I should rethink cremation !
There were of course the inevitable dinosaur jokes. After a while it was agreed that there should be a moratorium on any more such jokes. My wit was sheathed.
Nightfall saw us in the town of Craig. A bland and boring town although. I must say it did have a very good barmaid as a redeeming feature .
In the bar chatting as you do we talked to the driver of an oil drilling truck. He has an 80 tonne Mack. He offered to lend it to us so we could go into town to a restaurant. Was he joking? - you could not be sure.
.
DAY 43. CRAIG TO DENVER. 418km

Today the highlight was going thru the Rocky Mountain National Park to Denver. Actually through the park is not the right description. - you go over it. At about 11,000 ft it crosses the main divide. It was a spectacular slow ride.




A nice touch in the park were volunteers at the various lookout points. These good people were a mine of information and were clearly loving what they were doing. We should do this sort of thing in our National Parks in New Zealand. It could be something for the retiring baby boomers to do..
And then we drove triumphantly into Denver which will be our furthest point East in the USA.


DAY. 44. REST DAY IN DENVER

If you ever want to experience something that is quintessentially American then go to a Baseball match. We did with our kind hosts Richard and Shelli. We went to Coors stadium and watched the local team the Rockies defeat the Milwaukee Brewers. It was great fun .




I never realized how many of our common expressions derive from Baseball
Try these -
To throw a curved ball
To step up to the plate
To come out of left field
To have all bases covered
Three strikes and you are out
I am sure there are more and therefore I leave space!
Anyway I think Baseball American style is a great game and I can understand the appeal of it.


DAY. 45. DENVER TO DELTA. 460 km

It was a pass hopping day today with the biggie being Independence Pass which is supposed to be the highest sealed road in North America. It is certainly a great pass for motorcycles as we pulled around bend after bend with views unfolding



Then it was down to the ritzy town of Aspen were the rich and famous all have houses. We passed the airport which was wall to wall with parked private jets. I do not know if some of them had repossession notices on them or not.

Just as we were leaving Aspen there was a commotion. There was a big black bear half way up a big tree. ( an Aspen?). Right in the middle of town. I surmised that perhaps Steven Spielberg had a place there and had put an animated artificial bear up the tree as a tourist attraction. However the presence of an animated but very real Sheriff put paid to that notion.

All afternoon I pondered the question - how do you get a big and angry Black Bear down from high up in a tree? All afternoon I came up with no helpful suggestions to phone thru to the Sheriff.


DAY. 46. DELTA TO CORTEZ. 480 km

We just had to have an early start as how could you not see a " Delta Dawn ". And it was a good ruby red one too!

Delta Dawn!



I do have to say ( modestly of course because it was my idea) that the early starts to beat the heat are a good idea. We have been getting up at 6.00 am and trying to hit the road at 7 am. At that hour not only is it cool but there is a lovely golden light. Then of course the early starts mean that we can finish early and try to miss some of the late afternoon heat.
.
Today we went thru some stunning countryside and thru the quaint towns of Outray and Silverton. Both towns simply ooze character and one could have easily stayed in each of them for several days





And then there is was the high mountain passes - all three of them. The curves could best be described as " Reubenesque" i.e. curving all the way from one curve straight into the other with the road disappearing into a "cleavage" every so often. You could even see a tantalizing glimpse of bush from time to time. I will stop the analogy there!




We passed thru the town of Durango which was of course named after a Ford truck. They call them trucks over here but we know them as Utes. From Durango it was west to Cortez which is one of those strip towns where all the shops are on a soulless strip. There was obviously a Main street once apron a time but the Walmarts of this world have lead to thousands of towns like Cortez losing their main street and their character. Bill Bryson laments the loss of main street USA and makes the same point in his book about his travels thru America.

Then finally for the day it was to Mesa Verde National Park. This is where the Pueblo Indians lived in brick structures inside caves. It was very impressive to see and well worth the extended side trip







DAY 47 CORTEZ TO MOAB.         520 km

And a long day to but a great one. First up was down the road to " Four Corners" where the states of Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona meet. This is the only place in the US where four states meet. One then of course has to do some minor gymnastics and put two legs in to different states and at the same time two arms in the other two states. The body should come right in about two weeks.




Then to Monument valley. What can one say. Using yet more superlatives it was "oarsum" as our American friends souls say.






Remember the film Forrest Gump". Well at one stage when he is walking across America with a gaggle of followers he suddenly stops walking, turns to his followers and say simply " I think I will stop now". Well we stopped on that exact same stop but unlike Forrest we carried on. Not having a gaggle of followers helped!

Then it was up a back road towards the National Arches then on to the touristy but tasteful town of Moab. Moab is an adventure town a little like Queenstown and the young people flock to it. We felt quite at home!

Actually many people we talk to us look at us in amazement when we tell them about the whole trip. I am sometimes a little naughty when they ask why are we doing it so I tell them we found one day that the keys were left in the door of the rest home so we escaped! The other answer that works quite well is to say we are cramming it in before we get to middle age! It is rather nice when people seriously agree that this is a good idea. Mind you some laugh just a little too heartily !


DAY. 48. MOAB TO TORREY 354km

Well, well, well three National Parks in one day! First cab off the rank was Arches National Park just north of Moab. In the early morning light the towering rock walls were a fiery red. The arches were pretty cool too !



Then after being visually assailed by Arches National Park it was up the road and into Canyonlands National Park. This one is characterized by glorious vistas over gigantic canyons that go for as far as the eye can see. It was like being in an IMAX theatre standing on the rim.



Then if that was not enough we finished of the orgy of National Parks by riding thru the Capitol Reef National Park. This time it was the late afternoon sun that made the canyon walls fiery red. As Diana said no cathedral or any man made structure can compare with the raw beauty on show here. We hopped off our bikes almost memorized and overwhelmed by all we had seen today .

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Saturday, 11 August 2012

CHAPTER 19



DAY. 37. JACKSON TO HAILEY. 430km

First off today was a lovely blast thru the rural roads of Idaho flanked by fields of wheat of an almost impossibly golden colour. As we headed West the temperature started climbing and climbing and climbing and by the time we got to Idaho Falls for lunch it was reading 35 deg C on the temperature gauge. We were now getting into seriously hot country. It is hard to reconcile these temperatures with the fact that the roads have high snow poles on each sides and numerous chaining up pullovers. It is a land of temperature extremes .

A land of wheat and corn and plenty-







And plenty of patriotism


The afternoon however was the real wake up call. We found ourselves on a 120 km virtually straight road with temperatures climbing to almost 38deg C The road just shimmered into the distance

Slightly sobering was the fact that we were passing thru a huge Nuclear test area where they build experimental feeder reactors and test them. I just hoped they were not having a bad day

We finished off the day by passing thru the Craters of the Moon National park. This is an area of black volcanic rock with very little vegetation. It was the site of a fairly recent volcanic explosion. I just hoped those nuclear folks down the road did not get ideas



Three very hot and weary travelers arrived in the town of at the start of the Sun Valley. We expected a drab rural town. In fact it was a delightful town and we had a meal in a restaurant that night that could only be described as superb.

In Hailey there were yellow ribbons tied to all the trees as one of the local lads had been captured in Afghanistan several years ago and had not been released. It was kind of nice to see and left a nice taste in ones mouth

DAY 38. HAILEY TO BOISE 320km

It was thru the Sun Valley today and then thru some national forests to Boise. Somewhere to the north of us big forest fires were raging. The smoke got progressively thicker and thicker and visibility got down to only several 100 metres at times






Then we broke thru the smoke as we went over a high mountain pass and into Boise we rode.

A smokey sunset in Boise.




We got a motel near the airport where we thought " Boise might be noisy" but fortunately that was not the case .


DAY 39. BOISE TO ELKO 437 km

A change of strategy today. To minimize the heat we decided on an early start to beat the heat so at 7am we rode off into the dawn. It was a wise decision the first hour was lovely and cool as we rode thru the rural town of Melba which proclaims itself proudly as the seed capital of America. It is also named after our new daughter in law Melba so we had to take some photos to send on




Then as we headed south to the Nevada border it got dryer and hotter and we were in big cattle ranch country that looked distinctly marginal except in the odd area where there was irrigation. However the countryside was fascinating to behold and in spite of the heat it was a good day.

Actually I think we are getting used to the heat now and getting better at adjusting the riding clothes to minimize the heat build up. It is still a dry heat so as soon as you get in the shade It is reasonably comfortable

A characteristic of this country at this time of the year is afternoon thunderstorms. We did see some in the distance but seemed to nicely miss them


A considerate touch!



Elko is in Nevada so there is the tacky strip of casino hotels. However you have to keep it in perspective as it does keep hotel rooms and meals nice and cheap with the cross subsidies


DAY 40. ELKO TO SALT LAKE CITY 370 km


After 40 days Moses came out of the desert and I thought of that as we rode out of the desert into Salt Lake City. However unlike Moses the tablets I was carrying were very small and were only of the pharmaceutical kind! No comparison really in terms of the effect on the world!

The big highlight of the day was visiting the Bonneville Salt flats. What a blast! By good luck rather than good management this week is speed week and as a result there were hundreds if not thousands of vehicles of all shapes and sizes getting prepped for the speed trials .

To get to the salt flats speed trial area you ride out on the salt flats for about 4 kms to where the tents and prep area are. That was an experience in itself riding the bike on the dead flat salt surface. It was easy to ride on but there were patches of loose salt just like patches of loose sand. One kept one's speed down so as to keep the salt getting into the bikes sensitive little nooks and crannies .





The worlds slowest BMW !







It was just a great feeling being there. Everyone was having fun and everyone was friendly and everyone was obviously loving playing round with and showing off their machines. One just got caught up in the lovely and enthusiastic atmosphere

That is telling you




Talking of rear ends




Checking the technical specifications




And the Kiwis were there with their two cars and we had a good chat to them. It was great to see the spirit of Burt Munroe being carried on.







Spot the difference!



We were very happy travelers yet again in spite of the long hard drag riding from Bonneville to Salt Lake City down the Interstate highway .


DAY 41 REST DAY IN SALT LAKE CITY

I have always wanted to come to Salt Lake City. We were not disappointed. It is very interesting to see the history of the city and to see how the Morman city and State of Utah runs itself and distinguishes itself from the rest of America


Capitol hill. - Utah style



If there is one characteristic of the city it is the friendliness and gentleness of everybody. This is part of the Mormon ethos but it seems to permeate right thru the city and it is all rather nice and pleasant. One cannot help but contrast it with being in a taxi queue in New York city where I once almost saw faces being scratched!

And a city of flowers and plenty of water



Tomorrow it is " Colorado here we come". From Colorado we track East again and in two weeks time we will be in the The Tinseltown of Los Angeles ". In the meantime there is another 7 National Parks to pass thru. So much work to do. Sigh!



There was a visual

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