…musings of one easily amused

Utah! – June 2008

Utah – June 2008 – page 4

Tuesday morning brought rain.  I was on the road by 7:30 looking forward to the Colorado border.  For some reason I thought the minute I crossed over the state line the scenery would immediately change and I would be in awe of the fantastic scenery.

It was going to take a few miles before “Colorful Colorado” was going to any colors other than gray and brown.

I honestly don’t know what I was expecting.  Much of Colorado is pasture.  From the entrance on I76 at top Northeast corner all the way down to the Denver area there wasn’t a whole lot to look at.  I remember thinking at the time that at least the run from Ohio to Nebraska had farms and machinery viewable from the highway.  I had something to look at.  Here, was nothing.
Eventually, the skies began clearing and I could just make out the outline of the Rockies way off in the distance.  Denver to the South-

When traveling along a major highway all day long you start to pass the same truckers over and over.  Their fuel capacity is equal to or greater than the weight of the entire bike so they don’t need to make the fuel stops I do.  I pass them, eventually stop for re-fueling, and they pass me.  This rotation goes on all day.  I had started this interstate dance with a trucker hauling pigs back in Nebraska.  I remembered him because that first encounter coincided perfectly with the MP3 player queuing up Pink Floyd’s Pigs.  Each time I had passed him there was at least one snout sticking out of the container.  This last time we met was just before entering the Eisenhower Tunnel on I70.  This time, there was a snout out one hole and a tail out another.  Sort of like a magician performing a “Watch me saw this porker in half” type of trick.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the camera ready in time to capture the shot.
Entering the Eisenhower Tunnel was like driving into a giant meatlocker.  The temp immediately dropped and the white tiles on the walls reminded me of the old walk-in coolers I use to service.
Finally through to the other side, I found the Colorado I had been waiting to see.
From my posting to the forum that evening-
This stretch of I70 was an absolute blast. It’s got great scenery,
curves ( keep in mind that these were the first turn I’d seen since PA ) and trying
to take pictures at 70 mph at the same time is a bit tricky.
Racing alongside the Colorado River.  
The farther I got from the Rockies the more the terrain started to look like high desert.  By the time I hit the “Welcome to Utah!” sign I could tell this wasn’t in Colorado any more.
The cross wind had been increasing in its intensity as I left the Rockies and my elevation dropped.  It was not steady, instead it would hit you unexpectedly and push you across the road.  Some of the gusts were quick while others lasted for five to six seconds.  I remember negotiating one long sweeping right-hand curve while the bike leaned to the left (try explaining that to a new student in your rider education class).  I didn’t ride the bike through the turn, instead I varied the rate at which the wind blew me through the turn.  This was an exhausting game I played with mother nature all the way to the turn off to Rt. 191 that would take me south to Moab.
Route 191 is where the rocks and soil started to turn red and the scenery began to look like the pictures I had been studying for the past few months.
When I arrived in Moab I rode through the town to try to get the layout.  I stopped at the information center and checked out the campgrounds
that were close.  I was ready for a good meal and beer but wanted to setup and unloaded before heading for a restaurant.  The first two places I tried were booked.  My negotiations about taking up “very little” space were apparently not persuasive enough.  I ended up at Moab Valley RV Resort.  Being a tent camper I usually shy away of all campgrounds that call themselves “RV Resorts”.  I’ve spent too many sleepless nights listening to generators and watching the RV windows flash from the light of the TVs.  I was getting a bit desperate.  I checked in and was sent to site T34.  I have to say that they had a cool setup for tent campers.  Each tent site had a canopy over it keep the sun off.  Nice touch.
I setup, cleaned and lubed the drivechain, took a quick shower and headed back into town for some food and a beer.  I walked into the Moab Brewery and enjoyed an awesome meal and some local brew.  Unable to try all the differnt brews, I’d have to come back the following evening too.

After returning to the campsite I took the laptop into the office for a better wifi signal and worked on that evening’s ride report for the forum.  While there I talked to the owner and asked about the best time to get some pictures in Arches National Park.  “Sunrise or Sunset”, he said.  Already past the sunset opportunity I would hit the park the next morning.

 
Next – Arches and Canyonlands

 

 


Utah – June 2008 – page 3

Monday broke with clear skies and temps in the 70s.  I awoke (without the assistance of an alarm) at 6:00 AM and was on the road by 7:00.  The scenery would not change much from Ohio to Nebraska, my target for this evening.  This was to be my first thousand mile day.

The pic above could easily be used for Indiana, Illinois, Iowa or
Nebraska.  Farmland was the sight of the day.

Crossing the bridge into Iowa





Aches and Pain Control –

I’ve owned many motorcycles and never purchased an aftermarket seat for
any of them.  Before leaving on this trip I had ordered and installed a Russell
“Day-Long” seat.  The stock seat was good for a couple hundred miles before I
really started to become uncomfortable.  Certain parts of the body would lose
circulation and would go numb (parts that should never, ever, go numb).  While
waiting for the Russell to be made and shipped I purchased a new Suzuki Gel seat off
of eBay.  Many had said they found the Gel much supperior in long distance comfort
compared to the stock seat.  I, unfortunately, found it to be no better at all
and ended up putting it back on eBay.

The Russell Day-Long did not disappoint.  Its shape is much wider than the stocker,
incorporating what they refer to as “wings” that hold the outside of your ass. 
This distributes the pressure points across a greater area instead of concentrating
it to the places that should never go numb.  After the 650 miles on Sunday and
during the 1000+ miles to North Platte, Nebraska my bum was never a cause for discomfort. 
My back, wrist and finally knees were now proving to be the weakest link.

First, was my back.  One of those deep, sharp pains right between the shoulder
blades.  This was not a new phenomena for me as I’ve had this very same issue
on long rides for as long as I can remember.  I had picked up some Doan’s pills
at one of the rest areas in Ohio and they were keeping the discomfort at bay.

Next, my wrist on the throttle side was beginning to ache.  I blame only myself
for this.  The Strom does not have a cruise control, however, there are several
options available aftermarket.  I just kept putting off and it never got around
to setting the bike up for one.  I came up with some pretty interesting hand/wrist
configurations in an effort to find a comfortable position.  The most effective
was the upside down setup where my palm faced up, under the throttle.  Unfortunately
braking would have been extremely difficult in this postion.  Next time I’ll
have a wrist rest or throttle lock of some sort.

Finally, my knees began to bother me as evening came.  Leaving them in one position
for mile after mile, hour after hour was beginning to take its toll.  Fortunately,
being a somewhat short person on a tall bike I was able to let my legs hang straight
down, dangling them inches above the tarmac.  As long as I kept my feet perfectly
horizontal they cleared the ground.

The week before I left for the trip Nebraska and other midwest states had suffered
serious damage from twisters.  The destruction was still visible as I rode through
the Kearney, NE area.  The first clue was the following pic of one of the water
systems that I had grown acustomed to seeing all day long.  This one wasn’t quite
right.

Yes, the wheels are supposed to be on the ground.  I also passed
a few generator powered highway signs that were still laying on thier side or completely
upside down.  I thought how exciting it would be to actually see a twister while
on this trip.  Those thoughts were lost when I came upon a farmhouse that had
been destroyed the previous week.  The roof and most of the second floor of the
home were gone.  Pieces of the house, furniture and personal belongings were
strewn all over the area.  I decided I could do without the twister pics on this
trip.

The day ended at 10:00 PM in North Platte, Nebraska, 1040 miles from where I had started,
sixteen hours earlier.


From my posting to the forum that night-

So after securing a room for the night in North Platte, NE I rode over to the other
side of the highway to top off the tank. I pull into the station and up to pump. I
swipe my card, the screen tells me to lift the lever to select the grade and to pull
the handle to dispense. Nothing is happening. The screen is telling me to lift the
lever, however, this pump does not have the lever to lift. I double check the grade
– yup – regular unleaded – green handle on the pump nozzle. I look on the side of
the pump, no lever there either. Screw it, I say to myself, and I put the pump handle
back into the pump and push the bike to the other side to begin the process again
thinking the pump is just malfunctioning.

Same deal, nothing is happening.

I finally take a walk inside where I interrupt the latest telling of local gossip
and ask “Am I missing something out there? Why can’t I get the pump to come on?”

Did you push the big pink start button?” the attendant asks.

“Umm, pink start button?”

“Yea, we put a big sign on the pump pointing to it”.

Ok, It’s 10 pm, I’m tired, a little aggravated but I suppose I could have missed it.
I walk back out and fail to see a sign pointing to a big ping button. What I do find
is a big sign advetising the cheapest cigarette prices around. I lift the Cig sign
and there it is. The pink “start” button. Oh, for Christ’s sake I said out load as
I grab the green pump handle, my card is still registering and the pump is still telling
me to lift a non-existent handle, so I punch the pink button and just as I pull the
pump handle I turn to read the grade of the green handled nozzle…

Diesel.

At this very moment the authorization for my card times out and the pump turns off.
Nothing was dispensed into the tank.

I stood there for what seemed like a full minute, thinking of how close I just came
creating quite a mess for myself.

One side of the pump had a green cover on the diesel handle, the other side had the
green cover on the economy unleaded handle.




Next – Colorado, then Moab!


Utah – June 2008 – page 2

It always takes me a few miles to settle down and really start enjoying a ride.  This seems to be the case even when it’s a quick New Hampshire or Pennsylvania run.  I don’t think I really settled into a relaxed feeling until I hit the New York border and it started raining.  I know, seems a bit odd, relaxing while riding in the rain, but I enjoy it.  I find that other people on the road tend to increase their awareness to their surroundings when the weather turns bad.  I don’t seem to be as “invisible” as usual.  Perhaps it’s my imagination. If nothing else, I thoroughly enjoy the facial expressions I catch from some of the caged drivers as I pass.  Most of the time I can easily translate them into a “What the hell is that imbecile doing on a motorcycle in the pouring rain” type of look.  From time to time I’ll catch a “Man, I wish I was on my bike right behind you”.  Those are typically followed by a thumbs up sign.

Taking pictures while riding was something that I really had not perfected up to this
point.  The ride from Colchester to wherever I ended up that evening (there were
no planned layovers for the ride out to Utah) would be my practice time.  I found
out almost immediately that this was going to be more difficult than I thought.
I carried with me an Olympus 800.  It’s of average physical size and advertised
as “weather resistant” so I had hoped it would work well on the trip.  Unfortunately,
its round edges and smooth aluminum finish makes it real slippery to the gloved hand.
I tried putting my wrist through the lanyard that came with it but the padding and
straps of the glove made this difficult.  Eventually I took the lanyard off entirely
and simply held the camera tight, hoping not to loose grip and then watch it careen
down the road.  By the time the rain stopped after the New York border I figured
out the picture taking formula.  I held the camera upside down in my left hand.
This put the shutter button right under my thumb, gave me decent grip and only left
me “slightly” nervous about dropping it.

Now that I knew how to hold the camera, I had to figure out how to properly aim the
damn thing. I was trying to pay “some” attention to the road, after all.  My
early “rolling” pics were a bit off.  I did manage to get the obligatory state
sign pics.

I practiced the “over the shoulder” shots.

The first days ride was uneventful.  I80 through PA has some scenic areas.
The problem, at least when I went through, was the stench of rotting deer carcasses.
You didn’t always see them but you could certainly smell them.

Here is my “Welcome to Ohio” sign.  Like I said earlier, aim was tricky.
You can just make out the top right corner of the sign at the bottom of the pic.

Through the end of PA and into Ohio I had been battling a substantial head wind.
Nothing like the cross winds I would eventually endure further out west but tiring
nonetheless.  A strong wind also affects your range between gas stops, something
I failed to calculate in PA.  I typically get 42 ~ 45 mpg with the Strom when
commuting.  This gives me approximately 180 ~ 190 miles before I need to start
looking for a gas station. At approximately 210 miles the low fuel indicator comes
on.  During one stretch on I80 that low fuel indicator caught my attention.
I looked over at the odometer and it read 145 miles.  “That can’t be right”,
I remember thinking to myself.  Maybe there is a problem with the sensor, or
a fuel leak?  Either way, I needed to get to a station to determine what was
going on.  I started thinking about the harassment I would have to take once
everyone found out I ran out of gas while going down the interstate…on the first
day, no less.

If you have ever been running on fumes (or hope, as my Dad use to say) you understand
how each mile seems endless and minutes turn to hours.  It was twenty miles before
the next sign that indicated “Fuel – next exit”.  I left the highway, rolled
into the station and filled the tank.

The bike has a “claimed” fuel capacity of 5.8 gallons.  I’ve never run it out
of gas to find out how much of the 5.8 is actually usable.  During that last
gas-to-gas stretch the bike managed a dismal 33 mpg.  I would be a little more
conscious of the fuel gauge from here on out.

A few more miles down the highway I stopped at a rest area and grabbed a bite to eat
at Panera and a coffee at Starbucks.  I used the down time to plan where I was
to stay that night.

From my posting to the forum that evening –

I liked the setup at this rest area. They had screens with the lastest radar, and
all the Hotels and motels are pictured an a highway map with direct lines to each
for reservations. Since I had no idea where I was going to end up each night I’ve
not made any reservations. This was a perfect opportunity to pick a spot for tonight.
I picked an exit about another hour down the road and started calling. The first two
did not have any rooms available. The third, a Hampton Inn wanted $125 for the night.
It was the only room available and it had a Jacuzzi tub. I asked about another Hampton
Inn further down the turnpike and the woman insisted that the one with the Jacuzzi
tub was a better deal.

“The only way I’m paying $125 for that room is if you are planning on being in that
tub when I arrive”, I said.

“Let me check that other location”, she said.

The Hampton Inn was not to be. I ended up booking a room at the Fairfield Inn in Sandusky.

I was tired.  I had left Colchester at 10:00AM and it was now close to 7:00PM.
I had eaten up 650 miles.  I remember thinking that 650 wasn’t bad for the first
day and a late start.  I would discover that the best way to lay down some serious
miles is to get up early and get a couple hundred out of the way early before breakfast.
After arriving at the Hotel I carried my gear inside and headed next door to top off
the tank and grab the next days supply of Gatorade and power bars.  I also wanted
to see Lake Erie.  The GPS had me right on top of it but I could not see any
sign of shore from the hotel.  I spotted a sign for Cedar Point and began following
them.  It sounded like something that would be near water.  I was correct.

I had hoped for a place to stop and perhaps enjoy the view for a few minutes.
That was not going to happen here.  Exhausted, I headed back to the hotel and
called it a day.

Next – 1000 miles and Nebraska


Utah – June 2008 – page 1

Last June I left our home in Colchester, CT and super slabbed it to Moab, Utah where I would experience the most amazing country I’ve seen in all 42 of my years.  While on the trip I posted each evening (sometimes into the early hours of the next morning) to the ADV
Rider forum
.  I thought it would be a good idea to relive the trip here adding
a bit more detail to the sights and experiences before I forget them all.  After
all, its currently 30 degrees outside and I’m at the height of the Winter induced
doldrums. I’m considering this self therapy.  And it doesn’t cost me a dime.

So, I’ll start off here as I did on the forum –

Last Spring, while my wife was discussing our planned trip to Italy, I started
thumbing through an issue of American Motorcyclist. I don’t remember the month, but
it had the picture of a bike entering Monument Valley. “Now THAT is a trip I have
to do”, I said quietly to myself. My wife paused, and then asked, “You mean to tell
me you would rather ride a motorcycle across the country than go to Italy?” Without
thinking and as if she had just asked the most ridiculous question I had ever heard
I turned to her and said, “Uh, yea”.

So, this past April, She, her sister and her Mom & Dad enjoyed a spectacular two-week
trip to Italy while I played Mr. Mom to our twin 11 year-old boys and 13 year-old
daughter.

Saturday, I leave for Utah.

My plan is to get to the Arches area as quickly as possible. I only have the two weeks
so unfortunately this means allot of super slab the first few days. Once in Utah I
hope to work my way from Arches to Canyonlands, through Capitol Reef to Bryce and
then Zion. From there, I’ll travel south to the North Rim of Grand Canyon.

I have but one goal on this trip and that is to enjoy it (and to return safely – added
by request of my wife). My plans are not set in stone, if I spend an entire week in
Moab, so be it. I have, however, set a couple of “sub goals”.

I want to stand here



(Hwy 163 entering Monument Valley) ,

and here,



(Toroweep).

I’d flown over the Grand Canyon and Utah area countless times but had never actually
set foot on it.  When I started planning for the trip I discovered a few posts
from some riders that had camped at Toroweep.  The pictures didn’t seem real,
and to make it even more attractive, Toroweep was only accessible via a 61 mile dirt
road.  No rest area,  no food, no water, no fuel…

…I’m jumping ahead already.  More on the Tuweep area later.

My original plan was to leave on Saturday, May 31st.  Unfortunately, “work” interfered
with that and I ended up going in and not getting home until 4 AM Sunday morning. 
I managed to get a few hours sleep before the excitement of the adventure took over
and sleep was impossible.

The bike had been packed since Friday and was ready to go.  New sneakers, chain,
sprockets and a bath. 



At 10:00 AM I snapped this pic at the ATM machine in Colchester.  The ’02 V-Strom
was going to come back much dirtier and with an additional 6500 miles.




Next stop – Sandusky, Ohio.