Heading south ... again!
It was all a big frantic rush, though now that all my summer plans were back on track, I was a little short on days, and there was no time for relaxation at all. Roy had kept the battery charged on the 1200 while I'd been away, and it started first press of the starter next morning. What a beautiful sound that engine makes! Hastily, I sorted out all my gear, hoping that I had everything I'd need for the next journey, and repacked what I needed into just one drybag and the topbox on the 1200. A quick load of laundry, some last minute necessary shopping in Yakima (driving Roy's Jeep, having to get used to the righthanded stick shifting again!) and I was ready to go. I could relax for a few hours, at last.
Gus, the 1200, needed a service, so I rang the dealer in Boise, Idaho, hoping they'd be able to do it the next day. Yep, no problem, I was told. Away I went - I was off on my next big adventure.
Down I-82, onto I-84 heading southeast to Boise, passing places which evoked memories from past trips. Peak hour traffic in Boise is not all that daunting, and I soon made my way to the southern edge of town, where the dealer is located, checked it out then tootled around until I found a motel closeby. Had a fabulous dinner of superb seafood quite near the motel, and went to bed replete.
Back to the dealer first thing in the morning. "Oh no, we can't do it until sometime this afternoon." I wasn't all that impressed, needless to say.
Bummer - I couldn't afford to wait around all day, so rang the Salt Lake City, Utah, dealer to see what they could do. "Yes, come as soon as you can." Of course, it was about 350 miles or 5 hours away, so I set off quickly and made good time down the interstate. They are good for covering lots of miles, very quickly, these interstates. Just after a late lunchtime, I arrived where the GPS told me to go. Yeah, you guessed right! It WASN'T where the dealer was! I had to go way back about 10-12 miles, so by the time I got there and was attended to, there was not sufficient time to do a full service, so I had them do an oil and filter change, and put on a new front tyre. That was the best I could do, in the timeframe I had available. It was now late afternoon on Friday, 15 May, and the Big Adventure had to start on Monday 19 May, and it was 850 miles to the starting point. Time to move.
I learned a good lesson that night. Don't go to "touristy" places and just expect to get a motel room without a reservation. I got the LAST room available in the town of Hurricane, UT. Of course, standard for my luck, it was a suite, and cost a lot, but I didn't have a lot of options at that time of night, so had to take it. To make matters even worse, the AC powerpack for my laptop refused to work, sending me into a panic, as all my mapping for the GPS for the upcoming adventure was on the laptop, which had a flat battery. Frantically I swapped powerpoints, one after the other, but still it wouldn't work. Not the tiniest glimmer of a green light did it show. Luckily, the motel had a guest internet PC, so I jumped on that and tried to find a pack. Nope, nothing that I could get my hands onto quickly, as this Dell takes a specific large sized pin, not normally available on other lappies. Things were not looking good for this trip.
My low spirits were raised through the roof the next day when I crossed over into Arizona and my senses were assailed by the most wondrous of scenery - colour, colour and more colour. I made my way towards the North Rim of the Grand Canyon through some beautiful hillsides with winding roads and lots of animals. There was a large queue waiting to enter the park, including some other bike traveellers, so we chatted as the line slowly reached the checkpoint. There was still packed snow on the ground near the entrance, and some fairly quiet deer just before the entrance stood still almost long enough for me to get a photo or two.
The Grand Canyon is, indeed, grand. Although it was hot weather, I made the trek down the walking trails to the rim of the canyon, pausing to watch a pair of mule deer grazing quite close to the track, almost oblivious to the numerous passersby. There are some glorious views of the canyon in several different directions, with most being across to the south rim, about 30 miles away. I took heaps of photos, as one does at places like this. Truly, a marvel of nature. I also had my Nat. Parks Passport stamped here, as I need a few more states and stamps to complete the NP Tour Master ride requisites
Leaving the canyon, I headed off back to US 89, first north, then east, then south. This area is simply stunning. The most wonderful, brilliant colours assail the eye at every turn. Along across a high escarpment, winding down somewhat then turning into a lookout point - and the breathtaking scenes of the Vermilion Cliffs spread out before your startled gaze. I cannot adequately do it justice in mere words - go and see it for yourselves! Even the photos are not adequate, although they give some small idea of this amazing landscape.
Through Marble Canyon, the colourful cliffs towering high above in serried ranks of colour and texture, mirrored far across the valley by matching cliffs of colour. Most of the land through which I'd been riding is Navajo Indian Reservation, and it is so easy to let the imagination run wild, and picture Indians galloping across the plains on their paint ponies, in full war paint and streaming headdresses, their weapons held on high, their ululating warcries echoing back from the cliffs as they rush to attack the hapless wagon trains, in days gone by. A childhood spent reading penny-dreadful Westerns and novels by Zane Grey and his ilk rose from the ashes of memory, and came alive in this exciting, magnificent terrain.
I gathered a few NP stamps this day, as I called into every NP that I encountered. Dusk was hovering near the horizon, and Flagstaff was close at hand, so I opted to stop there for the night. Checking into a small motel, I walked back along the main road to a restaurant for dinner. I chose a restaurant over a fastfood place, because I wanted, nay, was actually craving, some veggies.
Imagine my horror when ordering roast beef, and asking what the veggies of the day were, to be told "There's no veggies with that."
"OK", says I. "Which menu item has vegetables with it?"
"Oh, we don't do vegetables at all, with anything!"
Arrrrgghhhhh!!! Can you imagine roast beef with chips ???? Sheeeeesh!!
The next day was fairly prolific in the gathering of NP stamps, although it was quite hot. I was horrified when the ranger at one park calmly told me that it was 102F. No wonder I'd been feeling a little worse than usual in the heat!
On this day, I had my first "encounter" with the law. Out in the middle of nowhere, following the shore of Theodore Roosevelt Lake, in Arizona, slipping along a little over the limit, when suddenly there's a little roadhouse surrounded by a few houses. Sitting out the front of the roadhouse facing me is a white car, and the disco lights started flashing as he did a quick u-ey and came after me. But I'd already realised the error of my ways and had slowed almost to a stop by the time he came up behind, as I'd belatedly realised that the speed limit had dropped to 55mph. So we had a great chat, Frank and I, once he'd recovered from the shock of seeing an Aussie female speeding on a bike in his jurisdiction, talking about this and that, standing there in the dreadful heat, discussing my trip down to South America and where I was going next. He wished he could come with me (yeah, right!) on his Harley, etc etc. In the end, he issued me a pretty green piece of paper, to hang on my wall. A warning, no fine, no points - just an official warning. Phew! Got out of it, that time, didn't I?
But I had to keep pushing along, to make it down to Willcox by nightfall, which I did. A small town off the side of the I-10, about 80 mile from the New Mexico border, the motels along the "old" road had almost all closed, except for one or two. I checked into one, paid, took one look at, and smell of, the room, then at three other rooms they reluctantly gave me keys for, then asked for my money back. YUKKY!! Got settled in to a decent room at another motel, finally, with WiFi, even.
On Monday morning, I tootled around town, checking things out, doing a little shopping, buying a cheap backpack to do duty as my "motel bag" each night, holding toiletries, a change of clothes and my laptop. I'd found it was too fiddly having everything in the drybag on the back seat. During the day, I discovered the cover of my taillight had broken away from its mountings, so ventured to a hardware shop and bought some longer bolts, which did the job, as it's still attached!
I also fronted up to the local Police Station, seeking the assistance of an officer to be my Verification Witness for the start of the Big Adventure later that night. Arrangements were made that I'd call back aout 9.45pm to have the form signed, as I planned on leaving at 10pm. An afternoon sleep, in the cool of the airconditioned room, prepared me for the coming ride.