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About Me

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Motorcycling has been a life changing experience. I hope sharing the info and pictures on the Blog gives you some idea how impressed I am with the experience, travel and the people I have met. Made new friends especially among Riders here in Orange County. Special recognition to Johney (Wrench)-helps with all the maintenance stuff+rides, plus other great riding friends: Ken Y., Luis V. & Minita, Chuck & Patty, John R., Joe, Carolyn, Gregg, Charlie & Carol, Rick, Stan P., Ed & Susan P., Barry, plus Terry, Bob B., Brian H., Glenn, William & Daveta Jo, Bob (Concho) and others. ************* DISCLAIMER: This is my personal write-up (Blog) of motorcycling news, rides and events that I am involved with in some way and not affiliated with any group, organization or club that might be mentioned herein. There should be no confusion regarding the fact these are my personal comments and not those of any other entity.

Amazing scenery, great ride, wonderful time.

Amazing scenery, great ride, wonderful time.
Monument Valley, Utah-9/2011 photo by Johney Harper!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Placentia to Phoenix to Durango to Monument Valley and beyond

Since my first trip to Durango, CO in 2009 I have wanted to make the trip again.  Tried to attend the Potato Ranch Rally-at Jo & Gregg's home in Durango and the BBO Forum gang, but turned back due to health problems this past June 2011.  Now in September 2011 it was time to try again especially since I had Johney interested in making the trip as well as Rick Sherrill who now lives in Fountain Hills, AZ.  This was an opportunity just too good to pass up, so Friday, Sept. 16 Johney and I take off at O'Dark 30 in the morning heading for Fountain Hills, AZ and 5 days of travel including Durango, Colorado, the Million Dollar Highway and San Juan Mountain Loop then on to Monument Valley and back through Flagstaff and Kingman AZ to home.

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Turns out all the on-the-road drama was in the last 70 mile stretch after a lunch stop at Molly Brown's in Victorville.  Proving once again that the ride ain't over until it's OVER.  We stopped for lunch and then with just about 70 miles left, get back on the I-15 heading south for the Cajon Pass and home.  About 2-3 miles from the top before it drops down, traffic is backed up for what appears to be miles ahead.  Decision time-SPLIT LANES!  Lane splitting is not legal OR illegal in California.  If done safely there is no rule against it so off we go.  It becomes a Masters Degree level course in how to split lanes on the freeway for about 10 unbelievable miles.  Part of the difficulty in riding on the lane divider area is that the divider markers are sunk into the road in a small scalloped 4-5 inch wide area making it very bumpy as your wheels hit it, especially at slow speed, maneuvering through the tight traffic. This was just near insane, but we made it all the way past hundreds upon hundreds of cars, trucks and RV's to finally get to the huge accident of a truck and fully loaded trailer that exploded in flames near the very bottom before the freeway splits. 

On top of that, on the 60 Fwy at the 71 interchange in the Diamond Lane, Johney gets hit by a large piece of card board packing material and nearly gets taken out, but handles it superbly.  We pull over in a very narrow space and he removes the material, straightens out the passing lamp and we are back on track.

Now back to Day 1 of the trip heading to Ricks in Fountain Hills, AZ where he will join us for the rest of the trip as planned.  It get really hot out on I-10 after we pass Blythe, CA so we put on the Kool Vests and they do work.  I took a few photos at Whitewater rest stop and another rest stop way out in the desert, until we reached Rick and Tammy's really spectacular home.

 It really is quite hot out on the freeway on a motorcycle!
 Near Blythe somewhere
We arrive in Fountain Hills with the help of Johney's Garmin Zumo 550 motorcycle GPS after about 380 miles.  It is becoming obvious that I need to get one of these, I love gadjets anyway. One reason there are so many photos here is that it is beautiful, the town fountain is spectacular, I love the desert, that's why we moved to Palm Desert for a while and most important I am not overly tired as yet.

Rick is a member of our STAR 230 Chapter but moved to this area over a year ago.  He was our guiding leader on the first "Week Day Riders" group including a memorable ride over the Mullholland Road from PCH and others.  There are references to a couple of the rides on the blog somewhere.  When Rick left the Week Day Riders sort of disappeared, but I have one or two other local riders (Cuyo for instance) that are available and those are reported here as well over the past couple years.  This was to be a getting back on the road adventure for Rick, but due to circumstances just did not quite happen as planned (see below).

 I do look a bit tired already

 Johney never passes up an opportunity to hug the pretty ladies

 Photos are from the roof top patio and office

 Art sculpture, junk collection your guess.

  This is a really powerful fountain

 Early Saturday morning after a french toast and turkey sausage breakfast prepared by Tammy we load up the three Yamaha ROAD STAR motorcycles and start out on what we hope will be a marvelous adventure.  The road leading up to Payson is really quite spectacular and I fall behind a bit with Johney and Rick zipping through those curvy mountain tracks faster than I care to travel.  Sometimes I just can't quite keep up and so lag behind a bit, but everyone is patient and eventually they slow down so I can catch up.
This is quite a road known as Arizona 87 on the way to Payson-scannable photos that you can view in all directions, just use your mouse over the compass in the photo...
Here is another part of the road...
We pass through Holbrook, AZ where we connect with I-40 to head east to Gallup New Mexico.  A common feature from here on for quite a while is reddish dusty sand that turns to sticky mud when wet.  It is dry out here-so far.

A major encounter with trouble.  We arrive in Gallup New Mexico after breezing through  Payson, Heber and Holbrook AZ.  Arriving in Gallup New Mexico we pull off I-40 to connect to US 491 and are on New Mexico 118 and find this small gas station to refuel.  The Google photo was taken in winter, there was no snow when we were there of course.  Rick pulls up to the pump then tries to restart-nothing-it's dead.  We are fortunate to have Johney, a very skilled mechanic along on the trip, and right there by the pump starts doing diagnostic work on the electrical system.  Signs are pointing to a dead battery due to lack of charging  or just a dead battery.  Suddenly it starts to rain making matters more difficult and they stay under cover at the gas pumps taking cables, batteries and testing everything.  We push start Rick's bike and I go back to my motorcycle.  An Indian is standing there and in conversation asks me if he can take my motorcycle for a ride around the block.  This is no joke, he was serious.  After a short explanation on why that would not be possible and checking to see if anything had been stolen, we take off for Desert Cycle-a Yamaha dealer.  I found the place using my I-Phone after trying to understand his directions, Johney plugs the route into his Garmin and off we go.  The streets are very wet from the rain and the accumulated dusty sand has turned to mud on the streets making for some slippery possibilities.
 We arrive at Desert Cycle and it is a very unusual dealership.  It sits on a hilltop of dirt and gravel and now it's muddy after the rain which is still intermittent.  I ask the manager what sort of thinking went into putting a motorcycle dealership on a hill of dirt and her basic reply was that this whole area is about 100 years behind times and looking around after our brief encounter so far, cannot disagree with that.  They did however drop everything to start working on Rick's motorcycle which boiled down to a bad stator (alternator) causing the battery to run down due to lack of charging.  They were working on a motorcycle that came in for a new tire and it was a motorcycle we had encountered at a Subway sandwich stop on I-40 miles back. After buying a new battery- $125, we had to figure the next move.  Rick can't keep going as somewhere the new battery will die also.  It is determined it should last until somewhere like Winslow, AZ where Tammy can bring the truck and take it back home.  We decide to push on with out Rick and sadly that is the best plan.  Turns out Rick made it all the way home on the new battery, just as he made it here on the old one, arriving home at 7:30 PM.

 Above is the service entrance through the narrow gate opening, while the gate appears to move gave no indication it can be rolled back, but probably does.
 The Indians in the area use lots of chain saws to cut wood for heat, they have no electricity, often no running water or gas and need the generators for lighting and refrigeration.  A very low level of income exists in the Indian community it seems.
They had this 2009 Stratoliner in stock, sitting on the floor, I just can't imagine them selling it, but you never know.  List price $16,900(?) but will knock off $2,900. 

We continue on 491 into more Indian country and at one point Johney thinks it might be a good idea to put on the rain gear.  As soon as we put it on are guaranteed it will not rain and we take it off at the next stop.

We see trailers along the roadside at pullouts and turns out many of them are food sellers including something called Kneel Down bread.  We looked it up but still no idea what it's about.

We push on and arrive in wonderful Durango, Colorado at about 4:30 PM, find the motel, unpack everything and have to climb these horrible wooden stairs to get to the room, and still pay over $120.  It's so cold in the room we get a small electric heater to warm the place up, while doubtful, it does actually work.  In need of food, I take us downtown looking for the place I ate at in 2009 with the group called Francisco's.  All I remembered was the motorcycle parking around back which we find, park and try several back doors until the right one opens and in we go. Turns out to be our best meal the entire trip.  I had a great Prime Rib and Johney a Carne Asada Burritto dinner, both very filling.

 44 deg. at 7:55 AM,  Time stamps says 6:55 but there is a 1 hour time difference being in Colorado.  It is cold and the Tourmaster Sabre jacket I carried all this way really comes in handy as do the Polar gloves.

 We are on our way up Main St. Hwy 550, to meet Jo Cuthbert from the BBO (Beginner Bikers.ORG) on-line forum I knew from on line posting but met in 2009 when I came here for the first time.  Her home is the meeting place for the Potato Ranch Rally where a group of riders, all members on the forum meet for a ride and Bar-B-Cue afterward at her home with Husband Gregg doing the cooking.  I think this is just fabulous that she would take time early Sunday morning to meet us for breakfast just to say hello...Awesome.
 She tells us about a couple riders from the meeting this past June that I did not get to do.  A rider on his first visit to the P.P. Rally on his V-Star 1100 was at the morning pre-ride breakfast where a young lady who rents from Jo also showed up and stated she would like to go on the ride, would anyone be willing to take her as a passenger.  He volunteers as he has room on the back and off the group goes.  Well, several months later they are now engaged!  How about that, you just never know what can happen on a ride.  If they are married by the road captain, will the marriage be good for just the duration of the ride?  Will have to wait and see what happens.  I think that is really a wonderful story.

It definitely is cold up here.
Talk about timing and a decision to stop turns into a major photo opportunity as we hear and then see the Durango-Silverton train come chugging up the pass.  This is just a few miles outside of Durango.  The train goes about 30 miles and takes 3 HOURS to make the trip to Silverton and then another 3 hours back with a total turn around of over 7 hours.
Luckily Johney ran over and got some great pictures of the train.

Another scenic stop-A ski area.

 It's hard to breath up this high and we are headed even higher

Our next stop is at Molas Pass also over 10,000 ft and it is even more scenic with vast view of the snow covered mountains for miles around.

A quick stop for a photo of Silverton, CO where the train stops.  You can see the entire town from here.
 All the on-the-road photos are by Johney with his camera at the ready as we zip around the mountain passes and scenic wonders.  Great camera and super photographer.

The road can get pretty crazy just click the compass to move around and follow the road

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This is some of the most dramatic sections of the road. No guardrail and a straight drop for a looong way down.  Not much sightseeing along here.
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 Our third mountain pass-Red Mountain at over 11,018 ft. and snow on the ground. Johney has to taste some of it.

We are in the mountains!

A new adventure lies ahead...Ouray, Colorado and a lunch stop.  I knew the deli further down the road but we find parking in the middle of town and stop in a brewery for a rest room break and decide to stop for lunch...big mistake.  The scenery however is gorgeous with really dramatic walls of granite and a town nestled in between the rocks.


We arrive in Cortez


We turn off US 160 at Hwy 41 to head into Utah.  Somehow we got it in mind that there was a long way between gas stops so we made sure to fill up at a Mobil station outside of Cortez as we start out early.  Well we were wrong, and the tank of gas took us all the way to Kayenta back in Arizona of US 160 after we went through the entire Monument Valley area.  Spectacular, stunning, amazing just does not cover how beautiful and unique the area is as a desert vista with the tall stone pillars spread around for miles.

BLUFF UTAH AT Hwy 191 and 163

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As we head deeper into Monument Valley the views are truly outstanding.

 Our favorite motel in Kingman for Chapter 230 Laughlin ride.  Boy are we getting ripped off, we paid $55 for a night instead of around $90 during Laughlin Bike Week.

At the last Arizona cheap gas stop US 95 and the I-40

This trip would not have happened if my friend Johney had not agreed to go and he went mostly because he knew I wanted to give it another try.  While Johney and Rick will not turn down a chance to go for a long motorcycle ride, this was certainly way above and beyond the normal calling as far as I'm concerned.  His expertise and guidance and laughing at my quips and comments made it a most pleasant, fun filled adventure. Really appreciate Johney's patience in letting me take the lead most of the way even though he thinks he has no patience, we did find it on this trip and we also found a shortage of patience with his GPS on one occassion, and for sharing an adventure of a lifetime up to now.

Nearly 1,800 total miles the entire trip, great weather almost perfect, good roads, safe ride, no encounters of the unfriendly kind including motorists and natives great riding partners.  What more can you ask for?
That's all for now folks!