Am I “Moist”? Or Is It “Damp”?

I haven’t spent a whole lot of time east of the Rockies in my life. I am now coming to understand this whole, “yeah, but it’s a dry heat” thing that we do in California. There’s a bit of heat here, sure. But it never really got to 90*, in my bike’s thermometer’s telling. What it lacks in sheer Fahrenheit power, though, it makes up in Moist….ees? What’s the international unit of moistness? Are there imperial and metric flavors of the damp? I’m betting yes. And I’m doubling down on I Sure Don’t Know! Regardless, I just felt swampy all day long.

I slept in ’til 7am local time (due to the two hour time zone difference) and got on the road by 8. I hope Garden City, Kansas, has more to it that the hotel/fast food row I was stuck on. Cause that place kinda sucked from what I saw.

I headed due east towards Wichita, which made me even happier for the late start. The sun wasn’t much of a problem, just a bit of an annoyance. I stopped in Dodge City for old time’s sake, since Mel and I had a steak in town when we traveled out the US50 on a three-week road trip. This time I had a cup of coffee and a serviceable breakfast sandwich at a local coffee shop.

After that it was just straight driving to the Missouri border. The plains turned into a more hilly, forested, interesting land as I moved east. I kept waiting for a noticeable border feature, but Nope! Boom, bitch! Missouri up in your grill. The sign came up so fast and I had traffic on my ass to boot…I almost dumped the bike as I moved into this grass verge. I think the lady behind me peed her pants as she saw me skidding towards the sign. I’m positive that wasn’t my urine trail stretching down the road…

I think the that the sign was more scared than I was. Or should I say, I like to think that the sign was more scared than I was?

Aside from taking years from my life and adding skid marks to my drawers, Missouri didn’t leave much of an impression on me. I was diverted around Joplin into a place called Webb City. It had a pair of praying hands bigger than a Volkswagen Beetle. I can only imagine that they were erected to ask why Sam Walton wasn’t born there versus 30 miles to the south in Bentonville, Arkansas. Those hands probably damn near bankrupted the city. Bentonville, on the other hand, looked like they gave away swag bags full of cash to anybody that showed up for a Board meeting. Regardless, I stopped long enough at Webb City to ask Melissa to find me any place to stay that wasn’t Webb City. She was on the job.

I didn’t get the whole story, but this is apparently a statue erected by the Catholic Priesthood to thank the Altar Boys for their…service.

Based on my newly reinforced plan to ride in daylight where possible, she looked at Joplin, Fayetteville, and Fort Smith. Fayetteville won, apparently, and she found a hotel near 1) campus, 2) good food and 2a) a Waffle House(!). So I walk to campus, then on to a good dinner, and in the morning I’ll get up and hit up Waffle House before I head out? Holy Shit! It’s like I found heaven. And it’s moist.

It was really a meander down from Not Joplin into Arkansas, but we seemed to morph from forested farm areas to forested lots-of-granite areas. Normally I would say, you know, “hill” or “mountain” or some similar mount-of-earth term. But this wasn’t like that. It was just a normal road through a normal rural area, then this aggressive pile of rock just jumps out at you…BAM! Like that. And you’re sailing along in a cut through this angry rock thingy. Outcropping? I think that’s right.

Land of Walmart and A College That Worships Scary Pigs!™

I wound down through Bentonville, which is Very, Very proudly the home of Walmart. It seemed almost Disney-fied, with its clear signage and general cleanliness. It was pretty impressive in its prosperous blandness. I passed McMansion development after development. Many in progress, all of them mildly horrifying. It was like the Walmart of small towns. There was a lot product, and it was all the same. But I found some nice roads down into Fayetteville, which dumped me off right into campus. There was a bit of activity but school thankfully wasn’t yet in session. Made for a bit of life in the town without the overwhelming crowds that come with the school year.

And what better way to end a long, moist ride? That’s right, a long moist walk. I deviated from a flat, straight route which (in retrospect) was the saner route, and cruised through the UofA sports complex. It’s quite impressive, although the contrast of the softball field to the (beach) volleyball <ahem> facility tells you that Sarah may not be a prime Razorback candidate…

This is the back of that building —>
The softball complex

But it was a nice walk, on the whole. I passed through the “Razorback Garden” which had a surprisingly disturbing Razorback statue:

Do I smell…bacon?
Oh dear lord. It sees me!

Que es más macho?

Grr!
Rawr!

You’re goddamn right it’s the bear! C’mon, man. Ignore the fact that it looks like it’s having a pleasant conversation with its cubicle-mate at its corporate job… (At least it doesn’t have those eyes!)

After crossing the campus, though, I began the long, moist hike up the hill to the local fun district. I had a drink in an old bank vault to start out the evening. At first you think, “Cool! These motherfuckers put a damn bar in a concrete tomb! Wicked!” Five minutes later, though, “So…turns out there’s not a lot of sound dampening in old bank vaults…aults…ults…ts…s…s…s.” Holy shit it was loud. So I had a quick drink and ran out into the evening traffic to enjoy the silence. But at least the AC cooled me down and mostly dried off my moistness.

Then it was over to dinner at Atlas. Solid place. I thought about work for a minute or two, so out came the firm credit card! Thanks for dinner, Aunt Virginia! I celebrated this culinary coup by hiking up yet another hill for a last beer and some pinball before I called it an early night. They had an Addams Family game. Fuck. Yes. It was on. Multiball for everyone, bitches! And then I ubered home with a guy whose college (well, UofA, so…) educated daughter was refusing a job from Walmart Corporate because she was refusing to get vaccinated. Why? Concerns about effects on reproduction, of course! “She doesn’t know who to believe,” he sighed. Well how about, oh I don’t know, Not Facebook? TahDah! Much less bullshit. Add a little Not Fox News and I think she’ll be headed in the right direction. Geez.

Inside, Gomez and Thing await!

Then back to the room and off to bed. Hoping to make up some miles tomorrow and stay ahead of Fred.

Starting Mileage: 55725
Ending Mileage: 56198
Daily Mileage: 473

Pithy Title

Today was primarily just a lot of driving. I got up early and took a quick walk around the NAU campus. Gotta say, pretty nice. There’s an older core to the campus with cool modern buildings that have grown up around it. I was pleasantly surprised. I made a quick foray into the surrounding neighborhood. It’s old. Somewhat rundown in places. But there’s character to it and signs of a quirky revitalization in some of the buildings. I saw a bit more of the touristy part of Flagstaff on my way out. On the whole, it really seems like a neat place.

The central quad of the NAU campus with some of the older buidlings
A new house made of cargo containers in the neighborhood outside of NAU

A quick Keurig coffee, a bit of packing and I was off at about 6:30. The route took me on the old Route 66 through Tuba City and on to the Navajo reservation that occupies a good part of this area of the state. I wound through the desert, noticing that the rock formations looked oddly familiar. I finally realized that I had joined up at some point with the route that I’d taken to Monument Valley four or five years ago. Sure enough, the GPS dropped me straight in to the Valley just a little bit later. Still just an incredible sight.

Monument Valley never disappoints

I kept going north out of the valley, a bit deeper into Utah, until I hit the little desert town of Mexican Hat. Gassed up, I followed the road out of town and it curved back south into Arizona before quickly taking me into New Mexico. The area on the far side of Monument Valley slowly transitioned from bare rock, sandy desert, and striking geography into something of a high desert scrub. It was far more green than I would’ve expected, but actual farming seemed fairly rare. At least along my route.

Taken on my final exit out of AZ due to their reluctance to place their signs conveniently.
Directly across from the AZ pic. Very efficient!

After skimming the top left corner of New Mexico, I started the climb up into Colorado. The temperature, which had been up in the 90’s, dropped to the low 80’s and even into the 70’s. While there was a spot of rain here and there, the threatening thunderstorms never seemed to come my way. The road winds up from the high desert into the low mountains. The forest seemed to be in deep trouble, though. Probably a 1:1 ratio of living trees to standing dead ones. The dead stuff (mostly) didn’t look like the remains of a forest fire, but it may have just been long enough ago to bleach out the charring, I guess. It certainly looked like a tinderbox, though.

This welcome seemed a bit ironic as I searched in vain for a non-caucasian enjoying Pagosa Springs, which kinda felt like the place that people go when they can’t afford Aspen.

I stopped in a nice town called Pagosa Springs and had a bowl of (decent) gumbo and a beer for a late lunch. I decided to push on to Eastern Colorado and call it a day around the La Junta area, which is a small town on the US50. Once I got there, though, it seemed too early and the town was too lame to justify the stop, even though the sun was starting to set. I ultimately decided to push on a bit longer, which I ultimately regretted. Once the sun was down, the road was pitch black and empty for miles on end. My least favorite driving conditions (well, it gets worse if you toss rain in there, but it’s bad enough in the dry). I began to look for alternatives, but nothing palatable was coming up. I finally jumped on Expedia and committed to a joint about an hour and a half down the road in Garden City, Kansas. Since I jumped another time zone at the state line, it put me at the hotel at close to 11:30pm. Long day. I’ll likely sleep in just a bit tomorrow for the same reason.

The road out of Pagosa and down into the plains took me through one of my favorite types of landscapes, which is the foothill-to-prairie transition.

Regardless, four more states down. No major catastrophes. A lesson or two learned. And I’m on track to skirt whatever remnants of Fred actually hit the Florida coast. So far so good. Trip-wise, at least.

Starting Mileage: 54910
Ending Mileage: 55725
Daily Mileage: 815

I, BBQ

So I’m calling this “Day 0” of the trip. I was supposed to be tied up in court and was hoping to sneak out of work soon enough to make it to Needles. The idea was to stage as close to Nevada/Arizona as possible to make the 48-states in 10 days a bit more doable. But two things happened. First, my court appearances morphed into quickies rather than drawn out hearings. Second, I pulled my head out of my ass. (Don’t worry, all you naysayers, it’s just temporary.)

Instead of heading out mid-afternoon, I was freed up by about 9:30. I said my (quick) goodbyes at work and rushed home. I took it as a good omen that I was at my house and nominally hitting the road at 10. I could feel Paul’s presence, smiling down on me from Heaven above. Yes, I know he’s still alive. And also an atheist. And currently in Cabo, lording over the locals like a good boss-man should. But that fucker was giving me a thumbs up from somewhere.

I actually got packed up and outfitted in my OMGWTFBBQ!?!? mesh jacket by about 11am. I rolled out and headed towards the I40, with Needles in my crosshairs. My starting milage was 54480, for those keeping score.

Up the Cajon Pass, through the high desert and off down the I40 to The River. Never have I felt quite so White. And middle-aged. I could almost feel myself seeking out Fox News as I drove towards California’s embarrassing red bastion to the south. And on into California’s gun-toting hemorrhoid, Arizona. Fittingly, as I drove into these Facebook-fueled hellscapes, the temperature started to climb. Low 90’s in Redlands turned into high 90’s at Victorville. It got worse from there. [Note: I read this passage over after a few days on the road. I think I understand what I was getting at, but I’m not entirely positive. I was pretty clearly in a bad place at that point, and I’m glad I was able to make this trip happen. I’ll leave it as written for transparency, since this is to help me remember, after all. But my inclination was to excise it.]

So I recently bought a pellet grill/smoker. It’s awesome. I made my own going-away meal on it last night, as a matter of fact. Tasty. But good lord was I starting to empathize with my pellet-grilled victims. 100? Yup. 105? Keep going! It was over 110 as I drove north out of Needles into the vast wasteland of southern Nevada. I passed through Laughlin, Nevada, which is like a trailer-park version of Vegas, and crossed the river into Bullhead City, Arizona. Which is no better. The fact that Bullhead doesn’t allow gambling is either a positive or a negative, but I’m not really in a position to judge.

The First State Line of the Trip!

The road climbs a bit out of Bullhead City heading the short distance into Kingman, where the state highway joins with the I40 again. I jumped right on the 40, skipping most of Kingman, sadly. The 40 keeps trending upward, though. The road into Kingman passed through some nice rock formations, and then we moved into more of a green prairie land (almost) heading out. I took a quick detour into the old Route 66 town of Seligman for an A&W root beer and some gas, then got back on the 40. It’s pretty apparent that Cars was based on the building of the I40 to bypass the towns that had grown up along US66. Seligman was a great example of the type of place that Radiator Springs was modeled after. Slightly off the freeway, desperately trying to draw in modern travelers while clinging to its former glory. Since Seligman was just about a mile off the main road, though, it made me wonder what was still there further off the modern track in the more remote turnings of the old 66. Whatever may be out there, I didn’t find it. Even though I’m not pressing to crank out a 10 day loop, I do have a pretty tight deadline due to some September trial dates that are looming.

I suspect that this is the area that Cars was focusing on, to the extent that it exists in our reality.

And yeah, that brings us back to the pulling my head out of my ass thing. I have no interest in forcing a 750mi/day average just to meet an artificial deadline. I already have enough to worry about between my aforementioned trials and Tropical Depression Fred which is racing me to the Florida panhandle. Screw that. I’m happy just driving.

As I climbed up past Williams towards Flagstaff, the clouds started to gather. I drove through one quick squall in my mesh gear, but it was pretty clear that bigger rain was coming. I pulled off and put on my new GoreTex® riding gear.

A passerby captured this rare image of me in my riding gear.

Dry and happy, I cruised into Flagstaff and checked in to my Patel Hotel for the night. Not fancy, but cheap, functional, and walking distance to a quite vibrant food/nightlife scene. No doubt the proximity of NAU helps. The food was excellent, the drinks were better, and it’s time for bed. Targeting an early departure tomorrow to get me in a position to beat Fred through the South.

Safely parked in Flagstaff. 3 down, 45+ to go.

Starting Mileage: 54480
Ending Mileage: 54910
Daily Miles: 430
Miles Remaining:

A Slight Change to the Itinerary

So the plan was to Get The Band Back Together for a 2020 Epic Journey™. My people were talking with Paul’s people to hammer out an ultimate destination. I was all in for Antarctica, but then I was presented with a globe. So…no. Stuck on the “furthest south” motif, I pushed for Key West, Florida as the obvious backup plan. Paul, on the other hand, hadn’t gotten enough of the great white north, so he was pushing for a tour to the UP of Michigan. At an impasse, we decided to settle the matter in the traditional manner of his people: topless arm-wrestling. The match was set for the Ides of March, 2020.

Enter COVID-19, stage left. Exeunt travel plans and half-naked grappling. Sigh.

I still had a hunting trip to South Africa planned with family, though. That trip had itself been moved from 2020 to August of this year, and it was certainly something to look forward to. Then came the rise of the Delta variant and civil unrest began to sweep SA as our departure approached. Just last week we finally pulled the plug on the trip and called it off for this year, too.

This left me with a hole in my calendar, as I’d already set cases to either side of the Africa trip. Having been without a break for close to a year and a half, I knew what I had to do. ROAD TRIP! Paul was certainly out, as he is a responsible adult and has to plan these things in advance (and get permission from his lovely wife, no less). My family was out, too, as the kids are both starting school pretty much the same day I was set to leave for Africa. Which left me in the position of finding something that I was likely to be able to do not just by myself, but ONLY by myself. So: Two weeks or so. A motorcycle. A trip that sounds so stupid that no one else would ever want to do it with me. I’ve got it.

It’s the 48-State Loop! About 9,000mi in less than 15 days? Yes, please. I poked around on the internet and found a pre-made route that starts in Needles and ends in Northeastern Oregon. Even better, it has a bias to state highways over interstates. If I can complete the route in less than 10 days, I can even get a fancy certificate! I am not making this a primary goal, though. I suspect that this will be hard enough without stripping all of the fun out of it.

It doesn’t look like anything to me…

The eagle eyed amongst you will notice that this “loop” lacks closure. My current target is 14 days max to ride the route, giving me two full days before I’m due back in court. That should be sufficient time to make it from White Power Country (North) back down to the California Republic.

So, yeah. The path forward has led from Alaska through a pandemic to an aborted African safari, and ending in a calloused, lonely ass slogging his way solo through The Great 48. I strongly suspect this space will become just a place to document progress, rather than a pithy travelogue. Looking back over my posts from the Alaska trip, it really drove home how much a travel partner adds to the experience. I do worry a bit that this will just be a long series of self-indulgent miles passing under my tires without the benefit of being a shared experience. I guess time will tell.

The bike is going in to BMW for fresh road tires and a once-over tomorrow. My long-distance gear is coming out of storage. I’m looking sideways at Melissa to make sure that I won’t be coming home to changed locks and a process-server hiding under my porch. In other words, shit’s getting real.