California or Bust


(April 24 - May 5, 2004)

Updated: March 6, 2008

[Map of the route taken during this trip.]

Daily Log
Date

April 24 (Sat)

April 25 (Sun)

April 26 (Mon)

April 27 (Tues)

April 28 (Wed)

April 29 (Thrs)

April 30 (Fri)

May 1 (Sat)

May 2 (Sun)

May 3 (Mon)

May 4 (Tues)

May 5 (Wed)

12 Days Total

Miles

675.4

720.3

500.1

342.4

442.4

397.2

316.3

481.4

726.7

643.2

0.0

373.0

Total: 5,618.4

Destination

Monroe, LA

Carlsbad, NM

Truth of Consequences, NM

Farmington, NM

Cameron, AZ

Las Vegas, NV

Needles, CA

Gallup, NM

Shawnee, OK

Nashville, TN

Nashville, TN

Easley, SC

16 States Traveled




I got the idea of covering the continental USA on two-wheels shortly after I got home from my trip to South Dakota in 2001. I went out of my way, a few times, to drive into states that I'd never been to, so I could say I'd been in that state. Granted, I was only in some of those states for less than 10 miles, but I was there, all the same. I even bought a 36"x42" map of the United States and marked off every road I've ever been on with a motorcycle. When I redid a room in my house to become my "Bike Room", a place where I keep my bikes and bike merchandise, I got that map framed and put it on my "Bike Trip" wall. To either side of it, I framed interesting pictures from my trips. Seeing this room several times a week kept my motivation up to cover the continental US.

My best friend, Wade, and I went to Canada in 2003, where we hit all of the north eastern states that I needed. I needed to hit all the southern states, across the continent, and decided to do it in the spring of 2004. I really prefered to do the trip in June, but with my co-workers covering field tests in other countryies, I would have to cover all testing at the Greenville facility and couldn't plan any vacations, so.....the trip had to be the last week of April and the first week of May to try to get the warmest weather possible.

I wasn't going to have enough vacation time saved up to take two-full weeks off of work, so I was first aiming for the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, with the plan to go further west, some other time. I kept doing internet research on the states of the south west and saw a bunch of things I'd like to see. I kept sending Wade information on the different places to sight-see, to try to tempt him into going with me, but his situation wouldn't allow him to travel with me. With the Grand Canyon being so close to the Carlsbad Caverns, I was thinking of using up all of my vacation and taking a week and a half to hit the Grand Canyon, too. With a lot of different places to see, as the date to depart got closer, I wound up deciding to use up all of my vacation and take a couple of days without pay, so I could stay gone for two full weeks.

The woman I was dating at the time, Vicki (who is now my wife), was very aware of this trip I'd been planning, and it was difficult trying to prep the bike, pack, plan, and spend time with her before I left. I was originally going to take off of work a few hours early on Friday and cover as much ground as possible before nightfall, but instead, I stayed home and went to a really nice restaurant with Vicki. We had a pretty good time that night, but the tension was fairly high as we both knew I was going to leave the net morning for fifteen days.

I got a late start on Saturday morning, as it was difficult getting out of bed, eventhough I still had some loading of the bike to do. I'd had some problems with the air conditioning at the house this week, but it was spuratic. This morning it was acting up, again, so I called a buddy of mine. Vicki said she'd stick around the house, for me, until Jerry could come fix the a/c . Once I was on the road, I was tempted to turn around a couple of times, but kept telling myself that this trip was one that I felt I HAD to do for me. It was bright and sunny, and the temperature was steadily climbing. It was a nice day for a bike ride, and a good day to start a long bike trip.

It took me about two hours to hit Atlanta, something I was not looking forward to with its Saturday morning traffic. I've ridden in Atlanta before, and it was never a pleasant experience. Atlanta wasn't as bad as it has been in the past, nor as bad as some of the other cities I've ridden a bike through, and before I knew it, I was heading out of town on I-20. This was all "virgin" road to me, as I hadn't been west of Atlanta on a bike nor in a car.

The drive was pretty pleasant as I looked around at the new surroundings. I made it all the way into Alabama on my first tank of gas, non-stop, and I stopped at a Texaco to refuel. I hadn't had breakfast, yet, and they sold hotdogs, so I grabbed one and a Gatorade and called Vicki. The a/c unit only needed to be recharged. Jerry charged me a decent amount and Vicki wrote out the check for him that I'd left on the table. I knew that the first two days to get to New Mexico was going to be boring and flat, so I wanted to cover as much ground as I could. I was hoping to get just inside of Texas by nightfall.

The clouds started to roll in and the sun disappeared. This was just what I was fearing from watching the Weather Channel for the last week. There was a huge storm front in Alabama, Lousiana, and Texas that I was heading straight into. It didn't take long before I was pulling over to the side of the road to grab my rain suit. I still wanted to get the welcome signs at each state, but the rain was going to make it difficult. At the Louisiana state line, I actually turned around on the opposite side of the bridge to drive backwards for the picture. I had to be careful turning the bike around on a slight incline, on wet grass, to get this picture. Other than this, and the drizzle when I stopped at the welcome center, there isn't anything eventful from the two hundred miles of rain I had to drive through. My record for rain riding is 250 miles in a day, and I wasn't wanting to set a new record on this trip. I just couldn't make it to Texas, but finally gave up, after the sun had set, in Monroe, LA. I was tired, sore, and a little bit wet. My rainsuit had treated me well. It was nice to get off the road, and out of the rain.

I got up and it was still raining. I was not looking forward to another day of riding in the rain. Hell, my rainsuit still wasn't completely dry. I'd lost my right, front turn-signal while in the rain in Louisiana, but I wasn't going to mess with it until later. I jumped back onto the interstate and fought the rain some more.

[It was still raining when I entered Texas on the second day of the trip.]


My first gas stop was just before I hit Texas. I stopped for gas right next to some place where they were having ATV mud-bog races or something. There was even a factory sponsored Suzuki tractor trailer there. The gas station parking lot was full of hopped-up 4x4 pickups with trailers that had ATVs with intake and exhaust extensions on them for when they get submerged in water. I took this opportunity to call Vicki and wish her a good morning and tell her where I was and that it was still raining. It was nice back home, and she told me that her and her brother were out getting gas for his two ATVs and they were going to ride those some and grill some steaks on the grill. I was kinda wishing I was back home. At least that way I could still be dry. I left the gas station and headed into Texas

I had been driving down the road and kept keeping an eye on my steering head bearing adjustment nut/bolt. I swear that thing was moving, but wasn't 100% sure. I remembered one of the points on it was pointing toward a different part of the bike when Wade and I were doing our trip to Canada, but I kept second-guessing myself about it. I stopped at the Texas welcome center and it was raining pretty hard. I stolled into the welcome center for a map (a quirk I started doing when I enter a new state on these trips). I was dripping water and trying to to get water all over the guest sign-in sheet. I was a little concerned about that steering bearing nut and finally decided I'd try to tighten it a little bit with what tools I had. I dug out the largest wrench I had with me, and it was pointless, so, I reloaded everything and hit the road.

The closer I got to Dallas, the more the rain lightened up and the sky started to clear. Soon, there were dry patches in the road where vehicles tires were on the blacktop. I pulled into a rest area to take my rainsuit off, but because of the water on the road, still, I left my rain gators and rainsuit pants on. I took off my safety goggles, also, before leaving, again. I wasn't two miles down the road when it started to drizzle and I was thinking I was premature in the removal of some of the rain gear. It quit as abruptly as it started and I was soon starting to dry off. The sun started peaking from behind the clouds and I was hoping the rain was over for this trip.

I was afraid I was have to go through downtown Dallas, like Atlanta, but was pleasantly surprised that I-20 actually never went near it. I was riding out in the country-side, and Texas wasn't too bad. I'd been in flatter and more boring areas of the United States, but still, this was not eye-candy. I soon stopped for gas and got some food at a McDonald's. It was at the Micky D's that I got a phone call from Brian about the Second Annual Kramer Guitar Konvention. I had attended the first "konvention" and he was wondering if I was going to the second one. I still hadn't made up my mind and told him that I was in Dallas, on my bike, at the start of a cross-country trip. We kept the conversation a bit short and I finished eating and was bound for the interstate once again.

[The Harley parked next to one of the first oil pumps that I saw on this trip.]


It was on I-20, that I saw my first oil pump, just like you'd see on the old TV show "Dallas" in the 80's. I stopped and took a picture the bike near one. It was also on I-20, and just before Sweetwater, TX that I saw my first windmill farm. There were several of these huge windmills on a ridge off in the distance. I tried to get some pictures of these, with and without the bike, but they were too far away to really show up. It was cool to see these, as I had only thought that they were located in southern California. I got off of the interstate at Big Spring, TX and hit the small, two-lane roads.

[You can barely make out the windmills in the distance on the top of the mountain ridge.]


Oh, talk about a boring stretch of road. At one point, I pulled the bike to the side of the road and in front of me was the road, as straight as can be and for as far as I could see. I then, turned around and saw the exact same thing behind me. I could imagine how rampant a mass murderer could get around here. You just force someone off the road and do whatever you want with them. In some areas, I bet you could pull over to the side of the road and sit there for an hour without anyone coming, and if they did, you can see them three miles away. I think one of the main reasons you run across this sort of thing in Texas very often is because of all the Texans that carry guns. Also, they don't have too many trees around to hang you from, but those windmills are awefully tall. LOL

In this part of Texas, those oil pumps are all over the place. In some areas, the stentch from the crude oil was almost nauseating. It smelled like some really old and dirty oil that had been left in a car for a hundred thousand miles and then stuck out in a field for twenty years before being drained. It was nasty. To make matters worse, I could see some of the small storage tanks next to the pumps, and there was crude oil stains down the sides of the tanks where it looked like they had overflowed. I guess there isn't much of an EPA presence around there because there isn't much greenery in the area, and they probably figure the crude will just sink back down to be repumped back up. 8)

I stopped for a picture a New Mexico welcome sign and shortly hit the little town of Eunice, NM. The map I was looking at showed that Hwy 176 just drove through the town and continued to Carlsbad. The town was a little dive of a place, nothing to really brag about, and I quickly drove to the other side of it, staying on what would have appeared to be the road I wanted. The road turned into barely a two-lane road with no paint lines and signs that didn't say a word about Carlsbad nor Hwy 176. I went back into town and astopped outside a pizza joint to ask for directions. I could tell I was in the middle of BFE as the little girl had no idea how to get to Carlsbad (less than 50 miles or so from there), and then the older woman wasn't of much more help. I guess they weren't used to strangers coming through town and I must have freaked them out or something. They gave me directions that went out of my way, north, to a main road that went into Carlsbad. Her directions were correct, but I sure would have liked it if she had a little more confidence in giving them to me.

Heading out of town, the road got very desolate and the sun was going down. Now, I wasn't in a grassy plains area, but not necessarily a desert, either. It was some weird mix of scenery and growth between those two. Any trees I saw were far and few between and didn't grow to more than maybe ten to fifteen feet tall. They were really scragglely without many brnaches nor leaves. Smaller brush was spuratic and the ground was a kind of pebbled sand with some dirt mixed. As I drove with the sun dropping, I kep thinking of a jackrabbit running out in front of me, a tortise in the road, or somethign else to cause me to have an accident. I figured I'd definitely have to be air vac'ed out, to the nearest hospital some 12,000 miles away, but I also figured I'd be in the middle of the road for a great length of time before anyone ever drove by to help. This was one of the time I wished I had someone riding with me. I didn't feel the safest under these situations.

My fuel level was dropping and I was out in "no man's land". I eventually hit the four-lane road that went into Carlsbad, and there was almost nobody on it. I hadn't seen a gas station for over 75 miles and was getting a little concerned. I didn't have any spare gas with me, then, seeing a stranded SUV with another guy stopped and them pouring gas into his vehicle didn't reassure me that a gas station was nearby. It was getting darker and I had to pull over to switch from my sunglasses to my regular glasses to be able to see.

I drove down the main road of Carlsbad while pulling my cell phone out of my pocket looking for a signal. The night before, I didn't have a cell signal and had difficulties talking to Vicki because of this. I made two passes through Carlsbad until I had a decent signal at one hotel, which is where I got the room. Wade called me as I was pulling into the parking lot. It was just after 10:00 EST, but the sun had only gone down about thirty minutes ago here. I was a bit tired and sunbeaten, but I made it. I got to Carlsbad, NM in two days from South Carolina. I'd driven about 1400 miles in those two-days. Now, I was going to be able to start my sight-seeing....Carlsbad Caverns would be the first thing I get to see.....tomorrow.

I got all situated at the room and walked over to the convenience store right down at the end of this section of the hotel. It was really strange and caught me off-guard in this store when I saw that they also sold hard liquor. Very unlike my trip to Pennsylvannia for a guitar show in '98 where you can't even buy beer in a convenience store (convenience stores is where I buy the bulk of my beer in South Carolina). Each state has their own laws concerning the sale of alcohol, so, this was just another new one to me. Vicki called me while I was in the store, but I told her I'd call her when I got back into my room. I paid for my snacks and some drinks and got situated in the hotel room.

The cell signal in my room was for shit. I got the best signal with the door open and leaning toward the opening while sitting on an uncomfortable chair. We eventually had Vicki call the hotel room phone because this just wans't working out. I was getting really frustrated with my phone because I had just changed my plan for total US coverage and different "minutes". This was getting bad because a lot of the places I was stopping, I either didnt have a signal at all, or it was a "partner" signal. I was really getting pissed at this and was blaming myself for not trying to doublecheck the coverages in the areas I was riding.

I got up the next morning and it was bright and sunny, but cool. I hit the road and headed for the Walmart down the street that I'd seen the night before. My bike is a bit old and has a bad oil seal on the transmission output shaft. This seal will let water get into the transmission if I ride in the rain for any length of time. I KNEW I had to have some water in the tranny, so I had to change it out. I also needed a backpack for additional storage, as I figured I'd need it with souvinere T-shirts and whatever else I was to buy while on this trip, I'd keep my dirty clothes in the backpack.

I found a quart of 90-wt gear oil and a little backpack that would work great for dirty clothes. Now, I had to find a place to change the oil in the transmission. I didn't have the luxury of the ice container and a plastic bag, like I did in Sturgis, SD while on that trip in 2001, so I figured I'd find a secluded part of the Walmart parking lot and change it there. I bet that fluid was a 50/50 mix of water and oil as it came out of the bike in a brilliant shade of baby-shit green......or is that Kawasaki green? Either way, there was a lot of water in it and it was taking a while for the fluid to drain. I wanted to get out as much as possible, so I just sat there for a while, tilting the bike every-now-and-again to get as much as I could out. I put the drain plug back in and filled it back up. I saved the remaining 1/4 of a quart for later, when the level would get low. I was now off to the caverns.

It was a really nice, twisty road going to the caverns once I got off the main road. I did stop at the sign to get a picture of the bike at the Carlsbad Caverns sign. This was the first section of curvy roads that I'd seen in 1400 miles, and it was nice. The road was smooth enough and twisty enough that I would have loved to have a sportbike. Naturally, I had to pick up the speed a little bit on the Harley. I figured I had to have a little bit of fun.

[The entrance to the Carlsbad Caverns.]


[The nice, twisty road to the Caverns.]


The visitor's center for the caverns was at the top of a mountain overlooking a long stretch of flat land. There weren't many vehicles in the parking lot, yet. I went into the center to find out that they have self-guided tours of the caverns. I thought that was pretty cool, and to make the experience even better, you could rent a little wand device that will tell you about each item that you are seeing when you punch in the corresponding number at the display in the cavern. I had to spend the extra couple of bucks to get this.

I could have walked to the main, natural entrance, but there wasn't much in the upper section to really see. Most of the good stuff was in the deeper parts of the caverns, so I opted to take the elevator. The tour guide operating the elevator asked me if I've ever been to the Carlsbad Caverns, and I told him no, but I'd been to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, the Wind Caves in South Dakota, the Luray Caverns in Virginia, and the Linville Caverns in North Carolina. He said he'd be interested in my opinion of Carlsbad when I came back out, but he'd been told that Carlsbad was better than all those I'd listed.

I walked fairly quickly, but stopped to listen to the explainations of the objects in front of me. I still say that once you've been in a cave or cavern, you've pretty much been in them all. Each one may have its own little quirks, like the mummified ancient indian and bat in Mammoth Cave, the stalagtite organ at Luray, the "boxwork" at the Wind Cave, or the quaintness of Linville, but, essentially, they are all deep holes of fairly constant temperatures and humidities within the Earth......well, ok, it's not really like that, but I think that going to more than one takes away some of the uniqueness of them. I really did like the Carlsbad Caverns, but I still feel that Mammoth Cave is the best out of all of those that I've been to. Then again, I am a bit biased, as Mammoth was the first cave I'd ever been to, and I was a little kid when I went there with my family. When I ran into the tour guide in the elevator, I pretty much told him the same thing I just wrote. Carlsbad isn't the best cave or cavern I've been to, but, I'd probably place it a close second behind Mammoth Cave.

[Formations in the Carlsbad Caverns.]


[Formations in the Carlsbad Caverns.]


A casual walk through the gift store had my buying a T-shirt for Vicki and a post card that I mailed to her. I went back up to my bike, had some idle chit-chat with a couple of other motorcycle riders, and headed back down to the main road. The road is nice and twisty, with a speed limit that is much lower than it needs to be. I rode realitively quick, knowing it would be the last twisties I see for a while, but went slow enough to keep from ending my trip sooner than expected.

[The road leading to the Guadalupe Mountains.]


[Mt Guadalupe.]


I was on the flat, straight roads again, and stopped just shy of the Cavern's entrance. The road went down a decent hill, but the view was really nice. I later found out that I was looking at the Guadalupe Mountains, with the largest peak being Mt. Guadalupe. This is the highest peak in Texas, at 8749 feet, but it didn't look very impressive. Mt Mitchell, in North Carolina, is the highest peak in the Eastern United States (6684 ft), and was more impressive than Mt Guadalupe. I think the biggest problem is the 5000 ft or so elevation I was riding the bike at....on flat land! Without the trees blocking your view, the Guadalupe Mountains were nice, but what really got my attention was the white, sandy desert region on the other side of Mt Guadalupe. I just HAD to pull over for a picture.

[The desert behind Mt Guadalupe.]


The drive to El Paso was long and uneventful. I wanted to call Vicki, but I didn't have a signal for 155 miles, until I was just outside of El Paso. Gas stations were far-and-few between, also, so I was very conscientious of my mileage. The road started to open up to a four-lane road, and traffic got significantly worse as I got closer to the border. I was getting hungry, and stopped at a Wendy's for a burger and made a few phone calls.

When I got closer to the border, the roads got a little trickier to navigate, but I saw some sign for Juarez and headed that way. after my experience with going into Canada a couple of years earlier, I was absolutely shocked as to what it took to get into Mexico. I was waved through "customs" at about 20 mph without any worries or concerns. I was expecting to, at least, be required to come to a complete stop! I was surprised as to just how small the Rio Grande was, also. I'd always thought it was a large river, comparable to the Mississippi River, but it wasn't wide, nor deep, at all. I guess if you are an illegal trying to cross it, there are some sections that would be considered "grande".

Just into Mexico, I wanted a picture of the bike with the "Welcome to Mexico" sign in the background. There was a tememndous amount of people just hanging out at the border. I figured most of them were begging and looking for handouts of money or food. This one guy came up to me and kept wanting to take my picture for me. I just didn't have the heart to let him. I was afriad he'd either run with my camera (losing irreplaceable pictures of my trip), or he'd try to hit me up for $20. I just told him, "no thanks", took my picture, and tried to find a place to turn around.

[The welcome sign as I was going into Mexico.]


I had to drive a little ways into Juarez to find a place to turn around. It was about noon, bright and sunny, and there were people all over the place. I didn't feel really comfortable being by myself, so I headed back toward the good-ole US of A. At the border patrol back into El Paso, there were multiple rows of cars, people lining the highway, and a bit of a wait. You had to drive up, one at a time, through this area of mirrors/censors. I jumped off of the bike for a picture, since I had time. Once up to the customs agent, I had to show him my driver's license, and he asked me what I did while in Mexico and if anyone had given me anything while there. I told him I just jumped into Mexico to say I was there, but didn't have any intentions of staying for any reason. I was allowed back into the country.

I quickly found I-10 and headed west, hoping to hit the Gila Cliff Dwellings in a couple of hours. I-10 was fairly rough, straight, boring, and I was constantly being pelted with sand being kicked up by tractor-trailers. I was soon far enough away from El Paso that the traffic lightened up. About 50 miles west of El Paso, I came across a weird item of interest. All traffic was redirected to under a HUGE carport on the side of the road. I mean, it was HUGE! Turns out it was just the customs guys checking vehicles. I wasn't even stopped, but just waved through. Still, I had to go from 70 mph to about 10 mph to satisfy them.

I got off of I-10 at Deming, NM, and headed cross-country. ha ha....that's a joke. Everything is the same around here. Very little along the lines of greenery. Everything was sandy dirt with little specks of short shrubs and bushes scattered about. The roads were constantly long and straight, and I soon learned that, eventhough the road was heading straight for a mountain in the distance, it would turn as soon as you got close to it. The road went over litlte bridges every now and again, but there was noting below it. I finally stopped at one of them, and the sign said that it was a river. A river? Where was the water? It just looked like a little ravine. I figured that with how little vegetation there was, and the lack of a good soil to absorb the water, that any time it rained, the water rushed off of the mountains and made for excellent conditions for flash flooding. This must have been one of the run-offs. There's no way I'd have called it a "river". I chauled it up to a difference in culture and geography and hopped back on my bike. The constant droning of the road, wind, and exhaust note, put me into a "zone" that made me oblivious to much of my dull surroundings as the miles kept clicking away.

As I got closer to Silver, NM, I was ending up in a mountainous area. The roads were finally changing in elevations, and even curving around some peaky areas. The area was quaint and the scenery was getting better. I saw a guy on a bike, stopped on the side of the road going in the opposite direction, so I turned around to see if he needed any help. It just turned out that he was ahead of a large group of people and was waiting on them. They were on their way back from the Laughlin Run in Laughlin, CA. I chatted with him until his group rode by, and we went our separate ways. I was very close to the Gila Cliff Dwellings, now, so I refueled the bike and headed toward the cliff dwellings.

About five miles from the gas station, I was driving through a forested area on Hwy 15. The roads were VERY tight and twisty, with absolutely no painted lines on it. Elevation changes were nice, I picked up the pace a little bit to have some fun, but also to try to make up some time. I was afraid of losing too much time on this road. I passed a couple of vehicles, as they were going far too slow. As I was getting closer, I was looking up some of the cliff sides, imagining what the dwellings would look like. I probably didn't run across ten cars, total, in the 25-35 mile stretch of road that it took to get to Gila. When I got there, the thing I was afraid of happened. I got there too late. I was hoping they were open until five, but they closed at four. Appearantly there was more of a hike involved from the parking area, so, it was probably for the better. I probably wouldn't have wanted to take about an hour-long hike to go see them, and leave my fully loaded bike unattended for any great length of time. I took a little break, drank some Gatoraid that was in my saddlebag, and then headed out. I was wanting to try to hit Albuquerque by nightfall.

I had to backtrack a little, so the roads were still fun, and by the looks of the side road on the map, I should be able to make up some time and hit Albuquerque. It took about 10 miles to hit the side road (Hwy 35 to Hwy 152), and it was a nice road, too. It was very scenic as I road through valleys and along some farms scattered here and there. They must have cattle grazing freely, as I was constantly running across those cattle bars/grills on the road that cattle don't like to cross. At one point, the road was cutting striaght through a farmers property, and there was grass all over this region. I was pleasantly surprised at this area, and wished I could have taken more time in this area to soak up what it ahd to offer, but, I was on a quest to hit Albuquerque by nightfall.

[Some of the views and experienced as I went through the desolate countryside as I left the Gilah Cliff Dwellings.]


I was hoping Hwy 152 would be straighter, as 35 sure wasn't. Naturally, as the sun was starting to go down, 152 wasn't much straighter. The scenery was excellent, though. I was enjoying the views, for a change, but I was actually getting tired of these twisty roads. I'd been on the road for over 300 miles, already, and spending 100+ miles in the twisty, mountainous roads, out in the middle of nowhere, with no idea how long it was going to take to get to a town large enough to have a hotel, was really starting to bother me.

The twisties were really nice, and I could picture how much fun a person could have with a sportbike on them, especially with the high-visability wide sweeping curves, but the sun was going down faster and I was getting tired of scraping hard-parts on the Harley. Eventually, the roads started to straighten out, but there were no towns to be seen. I was flying through this country-side at about 60+ mph, and visibily was getting worse as I relied more on my headlight for light. There were some low spots with signs stating that the road may be flooded, and these dips were interesting at higher speeds. I was slowing down for most of them, but a few just kinda snuck up on me.

I finally hit I-25 and headed north. I just had far too many miles to go until Albuquerque, so I started watching for information signs for hotels nearby. The sun was now completely gone, and I finally found a place to stay in the little town of Truth or Consequences, NM. I was tired, sore, and was looking forward to a hot shower or bath.

I wanted to call Vicki and tell her abotu my day, but, naturally, I didn't have a cell phone signal. I asked the hotel clerk about their long distance prices, and she didn't know what they were, but that she'd never had anyone complain. I called Vicki and we talked for quite a while. Over an hour, in fact. I soon got to sleep and the next day arrived. When I went to pay my bill that morning, my phone bill alone was over $90!!! Needless to say, I complained. At least they can't say that they never had anyone complain about their long distance rates!

While I was riding back from the Gila Cliff Dwellings, something just didn't feel "right" in the front of the bike. I was thinking about the front wheel bearings and was thinking that they were possibly the original bearings, still, since I hadn't changed them since buying the bike with 16,000 miles on it. I now had about 74,000 on the bike. I was planning on stopping by the Harley dealer in Albuquerque for T-shirts, but I figured I may as well have them change my oil, adjust my steering head bearings, and change out the front wheel bearings.

The Albuquerque Harley dealers was easy to find and I went straight to their service desk. They weren't too sure if they could work on my bike, because of how old it was, but I assured them that the wheel bearings were the same as many bikes into the 90's and the steering head bearing adjustment requires no parts. They found the wheel bearings and agreed to work on my bike. While waiting for them to get to my bike, I walked around their showroom and worked my way back to my bike. Outside, I saw a group of people standing around my bike talking about it. They were interested in the old 4-speed bike with a kicker, and made several comments about how you never seem to see bikes that old on the road, any more. I figured they were just yuppies that didn't get around bikes too much. While we were out there talking, a short mechanic came out to get my bike to take it into the service area. He took one look at the kick starter, his eyes got really big, and asked me if he had to kick start it. I laughed and told him that it had the magic button. After he went around to the service area, I told the others standing by that he probably wasn't big enough to kick it, even if he was soaking wet. It was funny.

The hours seemed to go by very slowly. I couldn't figure out, for the life of me, why it would take so long to change the oil, change out the wheel bearings, and adjust the steering head bearings. After a couple of hours, the mechanic called me to the back to show me that my front brake pads were almost gone. I couldn't belive this, as the originals lasted 50,000 miles and I'd bought OEM to replace them. He was definitely correct. The one pad was just about down to the metal. There was another $50 out the window. With all the time he was spending with the bike, I was getting really afraid of what the bill would be. I spent most of my time waiting by calling Vicki and my father, and constantly going into the store and service areas. I ended up having several conversations with an employee, DJ, and even looked over his 90's FXR with aftermarket front brake calipers and rotors.

After almost four hours, my bike was finally done. I was really dreading to hear the total, but it wasn't bad at all. They only charged me for two hours of labor, and the biggest delay on getting the bike done was that the lower triple adjustment bolts were just about solidly seized. I guess after 19 years of never being touched, they probably were a pain to get loose. I paid my bill and hit the road toward the Four Corners...my next destination.

I jumped onto I-25 and hit Hwy 550 toward Farmington. The Four Corners were up there, and I was seriously doubting I'd see them until the next day. I'd lost over four hours of my day at the Harley dealer, but I now knew my bike was in better shape. The steering head bearing nut had backed off almost 1/4" over the last couple of years, and my wheel bearings weren't the best. The new front brake pads took a little while to seat, but they gripped well after the first couple of attempts. The road to Farmington was getting nicer as I went north. There was a little more vegetation that the lower part of New Mexico, but the mountains were getting more frequent and larger, too. I saw an old, abandoned cabin off of the road, and pulled over to take a picture.

[An abandoned cabin on the side of the road on my way to Farmington, NM.]


The closer I got to Farmington, NM, I started to see a hint of my first snow-capped mountain. It was far off in the distance, and I kept waiting to see how close I'd get to it for a picture. The traffic started getting heavier, the mountain got closer, and, just as I got to the point of wanting to pull over to take a picture, the road dropped into a valley, curved, and got behind the town of Farmington. I never did get a picture of that mountain, but it helped me pass the time by "chasing" it.

I worked my way to the western side of town and found a hotel. There were a few of us in the lobby, and an older gentleman struck up a conversation with me. We had passed each other a few times on the way to get there and he was asking me about the wind and how it was effecting me. I was hunched over the tank a little bit, to reduce the effects of the wind on me. If not for any other reason, it kept the backs of my shoulders from getting sore. I eventually got my room and headed toward it.

When I got into my room, it was burning hot. I turned on the air conditioner, but it was putting out hot air. A trip to the office resulted in a guy coming to the room to switch a valve in the ceiling. Instead of waiting around for the room to cool off, a conversation with a truck driver, who ran this route weekly, gave me directions to the local Pizza Hut. Pizza and beer sounded good to me while my room cooled off. I made a wrong turn and just kinda made a scenic route to the Pizza Hut. By the time I made it back to the room, it was cooled off, I had a signal to call Vicki, and the sun was slowly sinking behind the horizon.

When I awoke the next morning, it was in the upper 40s. Just a little bit cold, and I was a bit concerned because the Harley doesn't like to start when it is cold out, which is one reason I quit riding it to work in the cooled part of the year when working the night shift. The bike was in the sun, but it didn't seem to make a difference. It chugged and tried to turn, but couldn't turn over fast enough to start. I ended up giving it a couple of kicks with the kick starter to get her running. I sat there and let it warm up a little bit before leaving the hotel.

The ride to the Four Corners wasn't bad, except for the cold. The temperatures started to climb fairly quickly as I got out into the desolate areas, once again. Traffic was a little bit better on this road, and it wasn't long before I got to the Four Corners. The Four Corners is the place where the states of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah all meet. I pulled up to a parking area beside a few bikes with California tags. They were patch holders to a club in the Oakland area and were some nice people. We talked for a while and I even got one of them to take my picture while I was standing in all four states at one time. I looked through the gifts hops around this spot and picked up a couple of post cards. I'd have to mail them later. Back on the bike and heading into Colorado to the Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings, as my next stop.

[Here I am standing in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah at the same time at the Four Corners National Mounument.]


I kept seeing this snow-capped mountain off in the distance, and as I got closer to Cortez, CO, this mountain got sloser to me. I stopped at the welcome center in Cortez for some information on the Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings, and it was here that I learned that the tour to the main, and largest cliff dwelling was a guided tour. I wasn't too keen on this, as I wanted to try to hit the Grand Canyon by nightfall, and didn't want to spend that much time at the Mesa Verde. I jumped back on the bike and headed toward the entrance to the state park.

[The entrance to the Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings.]


I pulled over to the side of the road and took a couple of pictures of the bike with the snow-capped mountain in the background before getting to the entrance. The entrance was where I found out about the distance I had to go to get to the cliff dwellings and the information center. It turns out that you have to ride on a two-lane road, up the mountain, down a section of the other side, back up to the higher elevations, and finally to the area of the dwellings. It was something like a 15 mile drive with speed limits of 35 mph. I was not expecting this to get there, but most of the cliff dwellings in the area were designed and placed in areas to offer the ancient indian tribes protection from enemies.

The drive up the mountain gave me a really good view of the snow-capped mountian, now, and I planned on getting an even better picture of the bike on a pull off area that I saw on the way up. The road was twisty and LOTS of fun....until I got caught up with some slow moving cars. I eventually passed them, and continued on this twisty path to the information center.

At the information center. I learned more about the cliffs, especially the guided tour. The next group wasn't going to go out for about two hours, and would consist of about two hours of my day. I decided to do the self-guided tours of some of the smaller dwellings. I grabbed a post card to send to Vicki and hopped on the bike toward the first section of old dwellings.

The first dwelling remains were not "cliff" dwellings, but an old house network on the top of the mountain ridge. The rooms were fairly small, but I was surprised to see what looked like a pool and run-off spouts used to collect rainwater into this pool. I hung out here for a little while, walking all around the dwelling, and shot over to the larger area of cliff dwellings. I believe this set of dwellings are the third largest of the Mesa Verde.

[The old housing network on the top of the mountain ridge on the way to the Mesa Verde .]


It took a littl while to find a parking spot, but it wasn't too bad with the bike. I was hesitant to park where I did, without being able to see it, especially with it completely packed. The path to this dwelling was a little windy, and steep in some areas. It was definitely not friendly to my engineer boots (biker boots) and to me wearing the leather jacket. The temperature, with the sun out, was probably in the 70s, and the walk was starting to make me sweat. The wild animals must be used to the visitors in this area, because I had a little squirrel stand his ground about 10 feet in front of me on the pathway. I snapped a picture of him, he then scurried along, and I continued to the dwelling.

This dwelling was quite impressive. Without the pathway, I determined to to have been a pain in the butt to get to when they were occupied. The dwellings were multiple levels, with lower, basement-like areas. There was another water pool area with the viaducts present at this one, too. I hung out for a while, wondering how long it may have taken to build such a structure and asked a woman to take my picture for me, since I was traveling alone. I spent plenty of time to soak up the structure and then headed toward the bike.

[The Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings from a distance.]


[Here I am actually standing within the cliff dwellings.]


On the way back down to the main road, I was going at a decent pace and caught up with a FedEx truck. He was traveling much faster than I was anticipating, so I just stuck with him for a large majority of the distance. When I made it to the overlook/pull-off area, I stopped the bike for my picture. The pull-off was roped off with a cable and some orange road cones, so positioned the bike the best I could and moved the road cones out of the way of the shot. I took a few pictures, put the road cones back, and travelled the last few miles to the road below.

I was running out of film for the camera (a Minolta 35mm), and there was a Walmart in Cortez where I could pick up sme more film. I tried calling Vicki from the Walmart parking lot, but the wind was getting pretty bad and I kept losing the signal. I rode the bike to a nearby gas station and called on a pay phone with a calling card. The wind was so bad that, at times, I could barely hear her. I just told her where I was, where I'd been today, and where I was hoping to be by nightfall. I looked at my map and wanted to jump into Utah for a little spell, so I planned a route to hit a nice little section of Utah in the south-eastern most part of the state. As an added bonus, the route was going to take me on old Hwy 666. I remembered reading in a magazine a few years ago about people raising hell (pun intended) about the highway being numbered "666". The road has been renamed, but some of the old signs are still there. I wanted to get a picture of the bike next to this sign while I was here.

I found Hwy 666 and headed out of Cortez. The scenery was more of the same and I kept seeing the Hwy 666 signs in areas that were not good ones to pull the bike over for. I soon hit the Utah welcome sign and pulled the bike over for that shot. Looking over my shoulder, I saw the welcome sign back into Colorado with the Hwy 666 sign next to it. I turned the bike around to get my picture...a two-fold picture with the welcome sign and the Hwy 666 sign.

[The picture of me going into Colorado and the road sign showing that this was also old Highway 666.]


I'm glad I planned this route through Utah. At first, until I hit Montecello, UT and headed south on Hwy 191, the scenery wasn't the best, but when I started heading back south, that all started to change. I started to see those tall column "mountains", like the ones you see often in commercials.....like the one with a Jeep on the top of one of these towering columns. I stopped at a few places taking pictures of the multicolored, multi-layered columns. It is amazing that these things have eroded the way that that have and left these huge structures still upright. I would have thought that the majority of the region would have eroded more uniformly, especially since there were not any rivers running through these areas to cut into them, like the Grand Canyon. I stopped for several pictures, and for one, I had a tractor-trailer not far behind me, so I got over to the shoulder at a decent speed to find out that it was about 6-8 inches of gravel. I got the bike to a stop, but nearly dropped the bike when it dug into the gravel. I pulled over and got a shot of the bike in front of one set of these columns. It was such a great shot, that I fell in love with it immediately. I even made it into an 8"x10" for my bike wall.

[This is where I nearly dropped the bike in the deep gravel that was on the side of the road.]


[Just a nice picture of the layers and reds.]


[An idea of the difference in elevations......and the first hints I got of the sand storm I'd be riding into.]


[This is the picture that I have hanging in my Bike Room.]


The wind was really picking up and was starting to really bother me. I pulled over to the side of the road and put my goggles on and wrapped a bandana around my face, to cover me from the goggles down. I usually use these for rain, but they worked well with the sand that was being blown around. In some of the vallies, you could see the sand blowing across the road from a distance. I was starting to dread riding through these areas because visability was pretty low at times, and a good gust would drop visibility down to almost nothing.

I got to the point where I just wanted to find a place to crash for the rest of the day. I was tired of the sand storms and the lack of visibility. Just before I crossed into Arizona, there was a little shop area at a cross-roads. Somehow, in the middle of nowhere with no visual obstructions, someone managed to pull out in front of a guy riding a bike. Traffic was backed up as they loaded the guy into an awaiting ambulance. I snapped a couple of pictures from my spot in the little traffic jam, and looked at his bike when I road by. It was some type of metric cruiser. I couldn't make out the brand or model.

Right at the state line, about a mile away, there were a couple of ambulances, but I couldn't tell what happened. I don't know if it was an excercise of sorts, a medical issue, or if they were passing off the bike rider to the other ambulance to go into Arizona. There may have been a juristiction issue and the nearest hospital was in Arizona. I don't know. I do know that the wind and sand storms were getting even worse by now. I was definitely getting ready to pull off of the road.

When I hit Kayenta, AZ, I stopped for a bite to eat and was hoping that the sand storms would lighten up. By the time I was done eating, the storm was so bad, I couldn't see across the street. Business signs were impossible to see, and traffic was almost non-existant. I stopped at two different hotels, and they were wanting over $100 for the night, and I was told that this was a DISCOUNTED price due to the storm. A guy who had just driven up from the direction I was going told me that the sand lightened up about five miles up the road. Appearantly, Kayenta was in a vally and the wind was soring through here and picking up a lot of sand. The one person at the hotel told me that this was the worst sand storm and winds that they have seen in several years.

[The sand was so bad at times, that when riding down the road, I was lucky to be able to see 30 yards in front of me.]


I reluctantly put all of my ger back on and headed west. It was about five miles, as the guy told me, when the wind and sand lightened up and visibility was much better. The wind was still strong enough to bother me and the gusts of sand being blown about was getting on my nerves. Another thirty minutes of all of this crap, and I was ready to just give up for the day and find a hotel.

It was starting to look like hotels were very scarce in this neck of the woods. At each crossroads and little hick town, I was hoping for a place to stay. I drove until the was just about down and knew I couldn't make it to the Grand Canyon by nightfall. I wound up driving all the way to Cameron, AZ before finding a hotel. This place was in the middle of nowhere and I was very surprised that it was even here. The room was quite inexpensive and it was huge. I mean, this was a HUGE room with twin Queen-sized beds, a separate huge bathroom, and the quality of the decorations was excellent. I was shocked. It was a really nice place, and I was able to park my bike just outside of the sliding-glass doors to keep an eye on it. An extra long shower was welcomed to get rid of the sand that seemed to be in every crack and crevice of my body.

The next morning, the weather looked good and the temperature was higher than I had expected. The sun was shining and I was looking forward to a good ride to the Grand Canyon. As I loaded the bike, a couple called down to me from a room's balcony. It turns out they were from the area and were truck drivers that knew the area well. It was suggested to me that I hit part of old Route 66 around Seligman, AZ. I hopped on my bike and was soon on the road. I wasn't 20 minutes into my ride and the temperature dropped considerably. I pulled over to the side of the road and put my sweatshirt on, under my riding jacket. I put my gloves on, too. The sky was getting darker, and I was not looking forward to potentially getting rained on.

There started a misting of rain....a COLD mist, but it wasn't much more than a light mist. I wasn't getting wet, before I got the the fee booth to get into the Grand Canyon, it had turned into a light dusting of snow. I tried to take a picture of it, but the picture didn't showed the snow falling. I knew there was a chance of some cold weather on this trip, because of the time of year I was taking it, but I was not expecting snow. I started to get visions of the road getting covered in snow and was debating on turning around and hitting the Grand Canyon on the way back to South Carolina. I decided to continue and put on my rain suit, especially since the guard at the entrance fee booth told me it was only 42 degrees out.

The road got quite damp and the lower half of my body was getting wet from the water on the road. The rainsuit and "rain-gator" boot coverings were keeping my clothes and me dry. Just a few miles shy of the canyon, I got stopped in traffic. There was smoke all over the place. It turned out that they were having a controlled burn for fire prevention purposes. We had to wait for a guide vehicle to escort us through the next section of woods. I wasn't too concerned about this, but was getting strange feelings about riding a bike through a controlled burn area. Once we got on our way, the fires on the sides of the road weren't too bad, but, at times, I was able to feel a little bit of heat from them. it was just enough to make me want to stop and warm up from this cold.

I got to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon where the Welcome Center and Gift Shop is located. I found a parking spot for the bike and grabbed my camera. A short walk got me to the edge of the canyon, but I was quite disappointed. There was a fog and haze that was preventing me from getting a good, clear view of the canyon, and I knew the pictures would be very good. I wasn't planning on riding a pack mule down to the bottom and wasn't planning on staying too long at the canyon, but I did want a decent picture of it. I was still thinking of comign back on my return trip to South Carolina, but I decided to go to the Welcome Center and see if it cleared up a little bit.

In the Welcome Center, they had a really neat map of the South Rim and showed the best time of the day to get the best pictures for lighting. I read some of the information they had on the Grand Canyon, called my dad and Vicki, and wandered over to the gift shop to browse. I saw a lot of really nice books of pictures of the Canyon and several on the history of it, but all I bought was a post card to send to Vicki. I asked the woman behind the counter if there was a mail box nearby and was told of a post office just up the road, in the park. I grabbed myself a Dr. Pepper out of a vending machine and walked back to the Canyon's edge to check on visibility for picture taking.

The clouds were clearing up and the sun was coming out. Visibility was getting better, but there was still an issue of shadows from the clouds on the Canyon. I kept waiting for some good picture opportunities and took a few pictures. I walked out to another section to take some more pictures and talked a couple to take a picture of me, since I was there alone. They said I'd have to return the favor, so I took a couple of pictures of them together. I forget where they were from, and I want to say that they were enguaged, but I do recall a fairly lengthy conversation with them. They seemed amazed that I'd ride across the country, by myself, on a bike. They asked all sorts of questions about trips like mine, as he was wanting to purchse a motorcycle in the near future.

I got my pictures, the weather wasn't appearing to get much better, so, after watching some squirrels that were about five feet from me, I took the bike up the road to the post office that I was told about. I scribbled a little something to Vicki and mailed the card to her. I was getting hungry, and with a cafeteria across the parking lot, I decided to grab a quick burger and fries before heading toward Las Vegas, a four-hour ride, I was told by the young couple.

[A picture of other people at the South Rim.]


[A nice shot of the Grand Canyon showing the depth. It was nearly 5000 feed down to the river below.]


[I got a nice couple to take this picture of me at the railing.]


The burger wasn't worth the price, but it was better than nothing. I headed toward I-40 from the Canyon, and because the weather was clearing up, I left my rain suit off. I wasn't ten miles down the road before it started to get colder and more overcast. About another ten miles, and I pulled over to put my rain suit back on because it was doing a combination of rain and snow, and I wasn't wanting to get soaked in 45-degree weather. I pulled to the side of the road and struggled to put my suit on as the rain/snow picked up and traffic went by.

It didn't seem to take long to get to I-40, and the weather did lighten up a little bit, but the temperature didn't seem to climb. I was hoping to hit Las Vegas by the evening, so I just kept chugging along on the interstate. There were trees in this area and rolling hills, so the ride was a little bit better than the previous days with the sandy, flat ground with staggered, short shrubs. It was reminding me of some roads that I've been on in south-eastern Kentucky, but this cold was really starting to get to me. Soon I needed gas and found a fairly large station to stop at.

At the gas station, there was a guy with a Yamaha V-Max on a trailer. The bike was quite modified and looked nice. It had a wider rear wheel, lots of custom billet-aluminum parts, converted to chain drive, and other interesting modifications. I spoke with the owner, and he told me of people customizing these bikes and of all the custom things that people do to them. I recalled the first time I'd ever been on one of these bikes. It was a first-year production V-Max that a classmate of mine had when I was in Clemson. He took me for a little ride on it on the perimeter road around Clemson University and proceded in nailing third gear at 95 mph and pulling the front end off of the road from just the shear, raw power of the bike under hard acceleration. Since that day, I've always liked those bikes.

I purchased a phone card and called Vicki before pulling out of the gas station. I told her of my days events, the cold, the bad weather, and the fact that I wasn't far from Las Vegas. She told me to be careful, as usual, and I was back on the interstate and heading west.

Shortly after getting on the interstate, and the closer to the west side of Arizona I got, the trees disappeared and were replaced with grass pains. The exit for Seligman, AZ arrived soon, and I opted to take a detour on old Route 66 to Kingman, AZ. The sun had come out and the temperatures were climbing. I really liked this grassy, rolling hills area, as it reminded me of sections of southern Indiana. Once through Seligman, the scenery was more pleasant for me.

[At the entrance sign to Seligman, AZ..]


I liked taking this route instead of the interstate. It was more desolate, less traffic, and less "busy". I still kept the same pace on this two-lane road as I would have on the interstate, but it seemed more personal. Route 66 stayed parallel with I-40, but it went though areas that were much more scenic (as I later found out when riding I-40 back home). I took Route 66 for about 70 miles to Kingman, AZ.

Once in Kingman, I hit Hwy 93 toward Las Vegas. I was making good time and figured I'd make it there before nightfall. As I got closer to Las Vegas, I kept seeing signs telling trucks that they weren'a llowed to go across the Hoover Dam and where the alternate route was. This is a precaution that was taken after 911 in New York. They apparantely wanted to reduce any risk of large enough explosive charges capable of structural damages from getting close eough to the dam. When I got a few miles from the dam, the scenery got really nice. I had to pull over and take a picture of the landscape.

[Landscape before reaching the Hoover Dam.]


When I got the the Hoover Dam, it was larger in some ways, and smaller in others, from what I was expecting. I was informed that they no longer gave tours of the dam (also due to 911), but they had a film that you can view in the visitor's center. I opted to just walk around and take a few pictures instead of watching the film. I'd seen some films on the Hoover Damn on PBS and other networks, plus, I wanted to get a hotel room before nightfall.

[Parked at the Hoover Dam sign.]


[A nice picture of the Hoover Dam.]


When leaving the dam and shortly after entering Nevada, there was a nice view of Lake Meade to the right. I drove down a side road and found a couple places to take a picture of the bike with the lake in the background. I didn't waste much time as the sun was dropping fast.

[A picture of Lake Meade.]


Once in Las Vegas, I searched for the Harley dealer to buy a couple of souvinere T-shirts before finding a hotel room. IO didn't have too much difficulty finding the place, but traffic was a royal PITA. To make matters worse, their T-shirt sellection left a bit to be deired, but I found some neat tie-dyed ones that I liked. I also found a cool looking shirt that looked like blue denim. I grabbed a reddish tie-dye and the blue shirt and figured I'd let Vicki choose which one she liked.

Trying to get back onto I-525 (Hwy 93 turned into the interstate) turned into a total bitch. I went under the interstate several times at places where there was not an on-ramp. I zig-zagged for a few miles, fighting traffic the whole time, until I finally got onto the interstate. Now the fun really began......i didn't want to continue fighting the traffic while trying to find a hotel, so I ran to the outskirts of town....to find out that they ended abruptly. I found an offramp to turn around, went up another offramp, and ran up and down the road looking for a hotel. It was already dark and I settled in on a nice hotel with reasonable rates. it was late eough that I didn't even want to attempt to go anywhere, so I ordered a pizza, took a shower, and hoped to get an early start in the morning so I could run through Death Valley and over to the Long Beach, CA area to get a shot of the Pacific Ocean.

Since the time changing Time Zones were giving me more sleep each day, I awoke early and had the bike loaded and ready to go, when......the bike wouldn't start. It had barely any power to the battery, so I tried kick starting it. After 10-15 minutes, I figured it was useless and found an exterior wall outlet and hooked my Battery Tender to the battery. I figured that the bike didn't have enough juice to fire the plugs, so I was hoping this may help so I could kick start it. While it was charging, I went inside to start looking for bike shops.

It was before nine in the morning, so no one was open. I finally got intouch with a shop that was on the other side of the interstate, but the guy with the tow vehicle wasn't in, yet. He also had a battery and voltage regulator in stock, so that was an added bonus. I'd have to wait at least another thirty minutes for a tow, though. Instead of just waiting, I went back out to try to kick start the bike. It took several attempts, but I finally got it started. I didn't want to run the risk of it dieing, again, so I kept it at a high idle as I grabbed my helmet and packed the tender. A quick jaunt of less than two miles, and I was in the parkign lot of the shop.

I bought the battery, but they insisted on filling it up with acid and charging it for me. This process took much longer than i woudl have liked, but they had a really cool Panhead chopper for sale that I was able to oogle and the staff was friendly. It must have been close to two hours before he finally brought me the battery, so I set out to change it in the parking lot.....and I got some weird vibes, like they were expecting me to pay them to change it for me. A quick swapping of the battery, and the bike fired right up, but I was getting weird readings from the charging system with my multimeter. I then walked back in and bought the regulator that they had in stock....to wind up having to borrow a socket and extension because the ones I packed didn't fit down into the old regulator to remove it. Not too much longer, I had the new regulator on the bike and.....I was still getting the weird readings between 15-16 volts. I didn't like what I was seeing. I even checked the output from the stator, and it seemed constant and reasonable. I wasn't sure what to do.

I trusted the idea that the system was correct, but didn't like the multimeter readings enough to decide to scrap the idea of riding through Death Valley. It was also late enough that I didn't want to ride through Rush Hour traffic in the Long Beach and Los Angeles area. I'd leave Death Valley and the Pacific Ocean for another trip. I was not going to go without hittign California while on this trip, though, so I planned a route to barely go into California, then travel parallel down the state line to hit I-40 back in Kingman, so.......off I went down I-15 into California.

[The Welcome sign to California off of I-15.]


Once crossing into California, I started looking for the highway to head south. The first exit wasn't the numbered road I was looking for, but had a name to it, like John Smith Road. I figured it was a small, secondary road and that the highway I was looking for was the next exit, but that also had a name instead of a number. Eventually, I KNEW I missed my exit. I eventually stopped in Baker for gas and definitely realized that I was well past the road I was looking for. Instead of turning around and looking for it, I opted to head into barstow and hit I-40 and head home. I was just hoping that the battery was holding up and that the charging system was charging well enough to get me to a hotel room. The ride to Barstow was longer than I thought it should be, and not very exciting. I was worried about the battery and charging system and this was distracting me from many of the sites and the experience.

I made it to Barstow, hit I-40 and was in the home stretch. I tried to keep a steady 70-75 mph and just let the miles roll. I was paying a lot of attention to the bike, it's sounds, and vibrations, just trying to make sure that everything was ok. I was setting my sights on Kingman for the next night stop, but I figured if I made good time, I may be able to make it to Flagstaff.....and then it happened...

I was just getting to the Needles, CA area when the bike quit maintaining its speed. I gave it more gas and the engine just reved. I immediately though thtat I trashed the transmission, somehow, as I had over 75,000 miles on the original 4-speed, and many people told me that I'd be lucky to get 40k miles from it before needing it to be rebuilt. I slid over to the shoulder of the Interstate, dropped it into first and tried to take back off. The bike didn't move. I got off the bike expecting to see puddling oil under the transmission, when I was surprised to see that I didn't have a chain on the bike! I had around 17,000 miles on the chain, which should have given me plenty of life left for the trip, but I guess the 10-13 hour days and the sand storm and all the sand on the chain was just too much for it. I had come to a stop at an onramp to the interstate, as I tried to think of what to do next.

My cell signal was sketchy, at best, but it didn't matter because I didn't have a phone number. It was also late in the day that some of the shops were probably closing. I figured I couldn't do anything on the side of the road, so I pushed the bike to the onramp, rolled down it backwards, and pulled into a gas station parking lot. The guys there weren't of much help, but they did let me look through their phone book. There were a few places listed, but none of them were local. They were all in places like Kingman and Flagstaff. They did say that the owner of the liquor store across the street knew some local guys, so I walked over there. He was friendly, and helpful, as it turned out that there was a small shop about six blocks away. Problem was, there wasn't a number in the phone book, he didn't remember it, and he couldn't leave the store to take me there. Instead, he gave me directions, and I set out walking.

I walked at a brisk pace, hoping that I could get there while someone was still there. it took me a while, but I finally got there, right at 6:00. I saw movement in side the bvuilding so I started knocking on the back door of the shop...and knocked...and knocked...and knocked.....Finally I waslked around to the front of the shop, and tapped ont he door and windows with my key. I bet I knocked on the building for close to ten minutes before an older gentleman came to the door. Turns out, he was the only one at the shop and was quite hard of hearing. He told me that they were closed, but when I told him of my situation, he let me in. The shop had a bunch of older Flathead and Panhead Harleys that were ex-racers, and I looked at these neat old machines while he looked for a chain. The only chain he could find was one non o-ring chain in a 530. He asked me if I had a chain break....and I didn't. He then asked me how many links I needed and he'd cut it, but I wasn't exactly sure. I was nearly positive of the length, but in a situation where you only have one chance to get it right, there is always a doubt. He cut the chain for me and would have offered to take me to my bike, but he didn't drive and was actually waiting for a ride back home. I thanked him, paid him, and walked back to my bike at the gas station.

Once back to the bike, I pulled out my tool bag and went to work. I had remembered the correct length of the chain I needed, but the master link was a clip-on with the outer plate being a press fit. I didn't have a tool to press it into place. I improvised by using any object I could use to try to ream the holes out a little bit and I used a combination of Channel-lok pliers and Vise-Grips to get the outer plate into place. I adjusted the chain, fired the bike up, and drove a quarter of a mile to the nearest hotel. I still had daylight, but with my luck with the battery this morning and breaking the chain in the afternoon, I figured I was pressing my luck and I wasn't supposed to be on the road that day. Once I got my hotel room, I took the battery out of the bike and put it back on the Battery Tender, just in case the charging system was not working optimally.

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Soon to come.......more pictures and more of the story.....visit again, soon.