2015 Southern States Tour

The longest and farthest trip I’ve taken, this 65-day motorcycle adventure started April 13th, 2015.

I rode solo into Oregon and California, mostly along the coast with some inland detours. From San Diego, I headed east staying close to the border of Mexico then spending time in Texas Hill Country before heading to the Gulf.

SST States of the US mapFrom Texas I followed the Gulf to Key West where I spent a week off the bike visiting with old friends and meeting new ones.

Key West was my turnaround point and I headed up the Atlantic Coast states as the beginning of an exploration of the southern states and the great motorcycle roads found there.

Some of the well known motorycle roads ridden included Tail of the Dragon, Cherohala Skyway, and the Blue Ridge and Nachez Trace Parkways.

During the tour, I traveled 12,566 miles, visiting places I have never seen, visiting friends I knew from Seattle and making some new friends along the way. It was an amazing experience, to say the least.

Day 1

Day 1 route

Day’s distance: 256 miles

The weather started out with clouds, then became rainy later in the morning as I approached the coast. It continued to rain for the rest of the day’s ride. Temperatures ranged from 43 to 50 degrees.

Getting ready to depart
Getting ready to depart

I departed the house just before 8:30am. My route out of Washington took me south on I-5 to Olympia, then west towards Aberdeen on Hwy 101. When 101 turns north, I continued traveling west on Hwy 8.

Just before reaching Elma, I saw a deer crossing the highway. It was maybe 100 yards in front of me, but I slowed way down. This is a best practice as deer often travel in numbers. This one appeared to be alone and quickly jumped over the guardrail and off the highway.

At Elma, Hwy 8 turns into Hwy 12 and continues west. I turned off Hwy 12 and took Hwy 107 south to avoid Aberdeen traffic. One thing sucks worse than riding in a cold rain. That is being stuck in traffic in cold rain. 🙂  Hwy 107 is a two lane road in good condition with little traffic. This is the type of road I like to travel on my motorcycle, but it is short and I soon found myself on Hwy 101 headed south.

I stopped at the McDonalds in Raymond to take a bathroom break and stopped again at Fort Columbia. Perhaps it was a combination of two cups of coffee and riding in the rain. 🙂

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The Columbia River divides Washington and Oregon and the fort guarded the mouth of the river just to the south of this promontory.

At this point, I was still largely dry, but the rains picked up near Gearhart. Along with the rain coming down, trucks were kicking up mass quantities of water and I started feeling it. So I stopped for lunch at a Subway in Gearhart.

The manager, who was working the register, asked if I was heading north or south. I replied south and he told me about Hwy 53, also known as the Necanicum Highway. It is a short, two-lane road through forest lands and he thought I would enjoy it. I was planning on taking Hwy 26 east to Banks and then take Hwy 6 through the Tillamook State Forest, so put Hwy 53 in the back of my mind.

After I finished lunch, I thanked him and went on my way. The rain continued as I turned inland on Hwy 26. A few miles later, I started thinking I needed to shorten today’s ride – it isn’t all that much fun riding in the rain if you’re wet and getting wetter and I was having to work to keep my visor from fogging up. I saw the sign for Hwy 53 and decided to use it and shorten the ride by about 50 miles.

It was fortuitous that I spoke with the Subway manager.

Hwy 53 rejoins Hwy 101 north of Rockaway Beach, then turned south and finished the day just south of Rockaway in Tillamook. I hoped for nicer weather and with it a chance to stay at Cape Lookout State Park, just outside of town. I camped there on Day 2 of my Western States Tour.  It was a nice campground and I remember setting up my tent on well maintained grass and taking some really nice sunset photos.

Alas, I needed a hot shower and a heater to dry my gear so I am staying at the Western Royal Inn motel. The room is big, with a sofa, desk, and dining table along with a large queen bed. It isn’t fancy but it’s clean, has good water pressure, and a really good heater.

Not many pictures today. I generally don’t feel like stopping as often in the rain. Future posts will likely have fewer words and more pictures.

Day 2

SST Day 2 route

Day’s distance: 271 miles
Total trip distance: 527 miles

The weather forecast accurately predicted showers today along my route. I was rained on a handful of times, most were quick showers and I stayed dry under my gear. The temperature this morning started at 39 degrees and stayed mostly in the 40’s until late afternoon when it warmed up to 53.

After leaving Tillamook about 8:30, I headed south on Hwy 101 when I noticed a sign for Three Capes Scenic Drive. I pulled over and checked the map. The scenic drive rejoins Hwy 101 south of Pacific City and so in the spirit of exploring I decided to take the detour.

Three Capes Scenic Drive
Three Capes Scenic Drive

This scenic route consists of a well maintained two-lane set of roads that skirts the coast where Hwy 101 is more inland. I was surprised to come across hail on the road at one point.

Hail on Three Capes Scenic Drive
Hail on Three Capes Scenic Drive

One of the small towns I passed while on this scenic route was Cape Kiwanda, situated in a very picturesque area.

Cape Kiwanda, Oregon
Cape Kiwanda, Oregon

I updated my plans to take Hwy 229 inland just south of Lincoln City based on a recommendation from my Coos Bay riding friend. I even programmed it into my GPS unit but somehow I simply spaced and didn’t notice until reaching the turnoff for Hwy 20, which was my original route. Sorry Mark 🙁

Hwy 20 took me into the small town of Philomath where I turned onto Hwy 34 to head back to the coast. Both these roads were in good condition, but the latter was my favorite. It cuts through the Siuslaw National Forest roughly following the Alsea River and not only was it scenic, but the air smelled great – very fresh. I think the alternating rain showers and sunshine worked their magic on the trees and soil of the forest.

My Coos Bay hosts took me to Tokyo Bistro for sushi. Part of the dinner discussion tonight focused on how riding a motorcycle allows for a rich interaction with the environment. Feeling the air temperature drop just before the sky opened up with rain and noticing the freshness of the air are two examples of what I mean.

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Another example is what happened when I pull up to Chubby’s, a food trailer located in Waldport, for lunch. During my lunch, I had three separate conversations about motorcycling and my travel plans.

These interactions occur regularly when I’m traveling on the bike. In fact, it is how I met my Coos Bay host 🙂 It is one of the best parts of traveling by motorcycle.

Tomorrow’s forecast is for sun !!

Day 3

Day 3 route

Day’s distance: 365 miles
Total trip distance: 892 miles

The weather started in the low 40’s but was in the mid 60’s by the time I reached the California border. It dropped backed down into the high 50’s as I approached the coast on Hwy 1. The sky was partly cloudy with a lot of sunshine compared to prior days. Strong crosswinds in the afternoon were challenging.

Mark, my host in Coos Bay, and I rode our motorcycles to Simpson Reef Overlook, part of Shores Acres State Park this morning. The sky was mostly clear and the sun bright.

Simpson Reef Overlook
Simpson Reef Overlook

We left the park along the Cape Arago Hwy, then turned south onto Seven Devils Road. This local road has a number of nice twisty sections and the surface is reasonably free of potholes. Seven Devils Road meets up with Hwy 101 and we traveled south to Bandon for breakfast.

After breakfast, Mark headed east for a short day ride while I went south towards California to continue my tour. It was 10:30 or so by this time.

I reached California shortly after noon.

Goodbye, Oregon
Goodbye, Oregon

I didn’t stop in Crescent City or ride the Lost Coast Road this year. But I did ride through the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park again. Last year, I created of video of my ride along the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway. Here’s that video …

I took a short break prior to reaching Leggett, my planned stop for the day. After a snack, I decided that I could go farther today. I’ll be riding into San Francisco tomorrow and don’t want to do so at the peak of rush hour so traveling an extra hour today seemed sensible.

Fort Bragg became my new destination and while on my break I reserved a room at the Travelodge online.

My only disappointment today was not capturing my ride along the northern-most part of Hwy 1 from Leggett to the coast on video. I set up the GoPro on my helmet before turning off Hwy 101. Alas, when I reached up to adjust the camera’s angle, I accidentally turned it off. I realized this only after reaching the coast, some twenty minutes later. Maybe next time 🙁

It didn’t take long for me to remember how nervous I was last year while traveling this coast. No guardrails, blind curves, and steep drop-offs still make me nervous.

Hwy 1
Hwy 1, CA

I reached the motel in Fort Bragg shortly after 7:30 pm. Dan, the clerk at the desk, recommended Cucina Verona when I asked about food. After a quick shower, I walked the one-half mile to the restaurant.

Cucina Verona, Ft. Bragg
Cucina Verona, Ft. Bragg

Once there, I discovered that the have a small Jazz ensemble on Wednesday evenings and I was able to catch their second set. I spoke with the bass player after they finished their final set. She told me that she learned to ride a motorcycle in San Francisco in the 60’s. It seems almost everyone has a motorcycle story.

Jazz Ensemble at Cucina Verona
Jazz Ensemble at Cucina Verona

Dinner was good and the walk back helped loosen my sore back.

I’m reminded that I live a charmed life 🙂

Day 4

Day 4 route

Day’s distance: 213 miles
Total trip distance: 1,105 miles

Today was sunny and warm. The temperatures started in the high 50’s and peaked in the low 80’s inland. Winds were light. This Seattle resident gets an early summer again!!

It is common at the motels I use on these trips to offer a free continental breakfast, served in the lobby or a room adjacent to the lobby. I usually grab a small bowl of the sugary cereal, a piece of fruit, yogurt if available, and lots of coffee. Oh, if I’m being completely honest, a miniature bear claw, too.

The Travelodge didn’t have yogurt :(. All other critical breakfast items were present!

Breakfast consumed, I packed up and headed south at about 9am.

I left the Pacific Coast Highway a few miles south of Mendocino and turned inland on Hwy 128. I’ve traveled this road from Cloverdale to the coast during last year’s Western States Tour. Back then, I thought it was a nearly perfect motorcycle road with smooth pavement, great twisties, and beautiful scenery. This year I rode it eastward.

I stopped in Boonville for a latte and got a little artistic with the camera while drinking it.

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Here are some of the other photos taken between the coast and Cloverdale.

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[In the interest of full disclosure, there was maintenance being performed on specific part of the road this year. Flaggers were out, as was some big equipment.]

Hwy 128 east of Hwy 101 wasn’t as interesting. It travels southeast from Geyserville, through the vineyards of Napa Valley. Unless you are visiting wineries, there are better motorcycle roads out there. The same goes for Chalk Hill road, which while twisty, is not well maintained. Watch for trucks and tractors on both of these wine country roads. Hwy 12 from Santa Rosa to Sonoma and Hwy 116 from Sonoma to Petaluma are fairly congested and not worthy, either.

Hwy 116 from Petaluma westward had definite merits, including a smooth surface, tight curves and sweepers. The speed is limited in most parts to 45 and was patrolled by the police. Watch for them and bicyclists.

While Hwy 116 goes into Point Reyes Station, today I took the Platform Bridge Road and then part of the Sir Francis Drake Blvd back to Hwy 1. This was a result of my programming the GPS with a slightly different route without intending to do so. Both, however, were smooth and scenic.

I continued south on Hwy 1 as I did last year, over the Golden Gate Bridge, and into San Francisco.

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After unpacking, my friend Craig and I went to a regular Thursday food event in Golden Gate Park. Approximately ten food trucks gather in the east end of Golden Gate Park. The trucks, along with live music, draw a nice crowd of folks from the nearby neighborhoods.

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A double scoop of ice cream from The Ice Cream Bar (Cole St) followed by some wine and conversation finished the evening. A great day, indeed.

Day 5

Day 5 route

Day’s distance: 104 miles
Total trip distance: 1,209 miles

Today was sunny and warm, with temperatures starting in the mid-60’s and reaching the mid-80’s.

I started the day with a latte from the Haight Street Market, which is steps away from my host’s apartment.

Haight Street Market
Haight Street Market

The motorcycle was parked two blocks away during the night, and all three hard cases were brought up to the apartment so they would be safe. It took about 20 minutes this morning to park the bike in front of the apartment and to load the three cases on the bike. It was 10am before I started my short trip down to Santa Cruz.

I wanted to ride along part of Skyline Blvd (Hwy 35), a two-lane road running along the ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains between San Francisco and Hwy 17 to the south. It is popular with local motorcyclists as well as bicyclists and tourists, scenic and the road is in good shape.

I stopped for brunch at Alice’s Restaurant, located on Skyline Blvd. To be honest, I thought this was a famous Alice’s Restaurant from the Arlo Guthrie song, but that Alice’s restaurant is in Massachusetts. Thanks for keeping me honest, Nils.

Alice’s Restaurant, Woodside CA
Alice’s Restaurant, Woodside CA

I finished brunch about 1pm and my Santa Cruz host would not be home for a few hours. I decided to ride to one of the local BMW dealers and see if I could find some new riding boots. As you can see from the photo below, I wore out these 🙂

Worn out Tourmaster boots
Worn out Tourmaster boots

These were Tourmaster boots purchased in the Spring of 2013. I replaced them with BMW’s Allround boots, purchased at CalMoto in Mountain View. Thanks go to Pete, who I met at Alice’s Restaurant, for the suggested source for new boots and to Daniel who assisted me at CalMoto.

From Mountain View, I headed to Scotts Valley to visit friends.

I traveled over the Santa Cruz Mountains via Hwy 17, a fun, twisty four-lane highway used by thousands of commuters daily. It is too congested and busy to recommend, but it was a good time. Despite spending a majority of my childhood living in this area, I think this is only the second time I have traveled over Hwy 17 on a motorcycle.

My Santa Cruz host was home by 5pm and I left Scotts Valley to meet up him. He organized a dinner party with about a dozen friends – it was great fun to catch up with old friends and meet a few new ones. I’ll be staying in Santa Cruz over the weekend and heading south again on Monday.

Day 6

Day 6 - Hanging out in Santa Cruz

Day’s distance: 0 miles
Total trip distance: 1,209 miles

It was another warm and sunny day in Santa Cruz. The temperature was in the 70’s most of the day. The winds were light.

Today began with breakfast at Zachary’s in Santa Cruz. I was joined by four friends. The five of us were housemates in 1991. We all resided at the very house I’m staying in this weekend.

Former Santa Cruz Housemates
Former Santa Cruz Housemates

Following breakfast, I went for a walk with another former housemate along West Cliff Drive.

LIghthouse Point Park, Santa Cruz
LIghthouse Point Park, Santa Cruz

Here are a few more photos of Santa Cruz taken last here while I was on my Western States Tour.

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Later in the day, I attended a wine tasting at the Sones Cellars Winery, owned by Lois and Michael Sones, two of the folks attending this morning’s breakfast.

Sones Cellars Winery, Santa Cruz
Sones Cellars Winery, Santa Cruz

Sones Cellars Tasting

Sones Cellars Tasting

For dinner, my hosts and I ordered a pizza from Upper Crust and watched a movie, continuing the relaxed pace of the entire, wonderful day.

I look forward to relaxing one more day here in Santa Cruz before continuing my trip.

Day 7

Day 7 - More hanging out in Santa Cruz

This morning was overcast and chilly, with temperatures in the mid 50’s. The overcast burned off eventually and the temperatures rose to the mid 60’s. Winds picked up in the afternoon, making it chilly to be sitting outside.

I mostly rested today, though I did make it to Tacos Moreno for lunch. This was one of my regularly visited taquerias when I lived in Santa Cruz. After, I  rode along in a car to visit a nusery in Ben Lomond and another closer to town. The only trip-related task on my to-do list was to clean the motorcycle, which finally happened about 4pm.

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On returning, several of my host’s neighbors came over and we all had some beers and a little whiskey before dinner.

I look forward to continuing my trip tomorrow, when I travel down the coast through Big Sur.

Until tomorrow …

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Day 8

Day 8 Route

Day’s distance: 173 miles
Total trip distance: 1,382 miles

The coastal pattern of overcast skies in the morning continued today and the clouds didn’t break until I was south of Big Sur. Temperatures along my route ranged from the mid-50’s to the mid-60’s.

I left the house about 9am this morning and rode down Hwy 1 through Watsonville and was well into Big Sur before stopping to take a photo.

Big Sur Coastline
Big Sur Coastline

As is my way, I like to stop for a latte in the late morning. This time, I stopped at Cafe Kevah for a single-shot latte and a muffin. The cafe has tables set up outside on a large patio with a pretty scenic overlook.

Cafe Kevah, Big Sur
Cafe Kevah, Big Sur

While there, I met a young couple. He rode and asked me what I was riding and where I was heading. I’ve said this before, it seems everyone has a motorcycle story. Since I don’t carry a selfie stick, I asked if they could take a photo for me.

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You can just see the sun to the south breaking out from the cloud cover.

Here are some Big Sur coastline photos I took last year, when the sun was shining.

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This year, I stopped at Point Piedras Blancas, where the Elephant Seal Colony resides. I had been following a Ural motorcycle with sidecar for a few miles and wanted to ask the riders some questions. It turned out they were staying in Morro Beach State Park, my destination, and we arranged to share a beer later in the evening. The owner, Mike, and his wife travel by RV and tow the Ural with them.

I arrived at the campground about 2pm, hoping they had some first-come, first-served parking spots. They were full over the weekend (according to Mike), but there were plenty of spaces now that most folks go back to work or school.

I set up camp quickly.

Morro Bay State Park campsite
Morro Bay State Park campsite

Since it was early, I took a hike up to the top of Black Hill. It overlooks Morro Bay. Here are some photos from the hike.

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The wild turkey in the last photo was close to me when it jumped onto the trail. It startled me and I about dropped the camera. I followed it for a few minutes until I could get another chance to photograph it.

A selfie, taken at the top of Black Hill.

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For dinner, I made Noodles and Chicken, one of my favorite Mountain House dehydrated meals. I was using a new gas cannister and had a difficult time getting it to ‘unseal’. Eventually, with some patience, it started supplying fuel to the stove. Whew!

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Afterwards, Mike and I shared a beer and talked motorcycles. I crashed pretty early and slept well, for camping anyway. All in all, another great day 🙂

Day 9

Day 9 Route

Day’s distance: 224 miles
Total trip distance: 1,606 miles

The coast was overcast this morning. The temperature started in the low 60’s but it felt cold. I guess I’m already getting used to the warmer weather. Traveling east on Hwy 58, the temperature increased and in Taft, I recall seeing temperatures in the low 80’s. The clouds returned as I climbed into the Los Padres National Forest and the temperature dropped below 50, briefly, on the southern side of Pine Mountain.

Since I traveled Hwy 1 south last year, I chose to travel inland today.

The Butler Motorcycle Map for Southern California indicated that Hwy 58 and Hwy 33 were some of the best motorcycling roads in the area. I was not disappointed.

The road surface was not perfect, but very good. There were a few too many ‘tar snakes’ and too much bumpy pavement to get a 5-star rating, but definitely 4-stars. The road had many wonderful sets of curves, though. Speed limits were generally 55 mph and that was fine for me. Traffic was very light. I don’t think I saw a single vehicle in my rear-view mirrors.

Hwy 58 near San Margarita
Hwy 58 near San Margarita

The countryside changed as I traveled east, lightly wooded hillsides evolved into grass covered hills.

Hwy 58 near Carizzo Plain
Hwy 58 near Carizzo Plain

The part of Hwy 58 halfway between Hwy 229 and Hwy 33 was the least interesting. I then turned south on Hwy 33. That was an abrupt change of environment. The air smelled bad and there were oil well pumps everywhere.

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According to a wikipedia article, “Taft is situated in a major petroleum and natural gas production region in California and is one of the few remaining towns in the United States which exist exclusively because of nearby oil reserves.”

Once Hwy 33 entered the Los Padres Mountains, the scenery and the roads more to my liking. South of the peak was especially fun. Again, the road surface wasn’t perfect, but it was a very good motorcycling road. An abundance of switchbacks and sweepers to keep me busy and very little traffic vying for my attention.

Hwy 33 south of Pine Mountain summit
Hwy 33 south of Pine Mountain summit
Hwy 33 switchbacks south of Pine Mountain
Hwy 33 switchbacks south of Pine Mountain

Pine Mountain reaches an elevation of 5160 feet along Hwy 33. The temperature dropped significantly on the south side, down to 49 degrees. If you’re riding here in Spring, do wear appropriate clothing.

While taking a break, and taking the above photo, I met another rider who also stopped to photograph the switchbacks. We talked for a while about good roads we’ve ridden and where we’re headed. I love making these connections while on the road.

After riding through Ventura, I arrived at the BMW shop that will be performing maintenance on the bike tomorrow morning. I finalized arrangements and found a motel nearby.

Day 10

Day 10 Route

Day’s distance: 113 miles
Total trip distance: 1,719 miles

The day was cloudy to mostly sunny with temperatures in the mid 60’s to low 70’s. As for the past few days, the clouds have made me think I’m riding into some rain but it never materializes. The winds picked up in the afternoon.

The motorcycle was in the shop for a scheduled service, specifically the 24,000 mile service. These take about 5 hours. For those interested, they cost along the lines of $700 – $800 dollars.

Part of the service requires the technician to test ride the bike. I was just returning from getting lunch when the technician rode past me on my motorcycle.

My R1200RT being test ridden
My R1200RT being test ridden

While my bike has been in the shop for maintenance many times, this is the first time I’ve seen someone else riding my baby. It’s funny how personal that feels. 🙂

It was well after 1pm when I left the shop, BMW of Ventura County. The service manager, Howard, the service writer, Paul, and the rest of the folks were super helpful and friendly. I was especially pleased with the care and concern from the technician, who recommended additional service that may be required. Overall this shop is great and I recommend them without reservation.

To plan today’s ride, I mostly used the Butler Motorcycle Map for Southern California to find worthy motorcycle roads in this general vicinity as I’ll be in the greater Los Angeles area through Sunday morning. Yesterday, I traveled from the north through the Los Padres National Forest, so today I thought I would visit the Angeles National Forest located northeast of Newberry Park.

In leaving Newberry Park, one road I traveled was Hwy 23, at least part of which is also called Grimes Canyon Road. A short part of that was really twisty. Here’s what the map shows.

Grimes Canyon Rd (Hwy 23)
Grimes Canyon Rd (Hwy 23)

A stop for gas east of Filmore and a short ride north on I-5 and I was soon in the mountains riding some worthy roads. My favorites included Lake Hughes Road, which runs adjacent to Castaic Lake,

Castaic Lake, CA

Spunky Canyon Road,

Castaic Lake, CA

and Bouquet Canyon Road, running past Bouquet Reservoir.

Spunky Canyon Road, CA

As mentioned earlier, the winds picked up in the afternoon. They felt stronger as I approached Palmdale. Since it was after 4pm, I decided to just call it a day here, as was the plan.

Tomorrow, I look forward to riding through the San Gabriel and San Bernadino Mountains northeast and east of Los Angeles. I may camp again tomorrow night so my next post may be later than usual.

Day 11

Day 11 Route

Day’s distance: 149 miles
Total trip distance: 1,868 miles

The day started out partly sunny. Later, I encountered wind, then rain, hail, and fog. Temperatures started in the mid 50’s and ended in the high 60’s, but was as low as 36 in the mountains.

Today’s route took me up into the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains. I learned from traveling over the Los Padres Mountains that it can be cold at higher elevations so I put on my “long” base layer and my jacket liner before leaving the motel.

The trip started by taking Mt. Emma Road, followed by the Angeles Forest Highway.

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A forest fire swept through this area a few years back (2009?), leaving the trees burnt and the area susceptible to mud slides.

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The road was in good condition, though not smooth enough to earn 5 stars. Hwy 2 was next and was in better shape.

I turned the wrong direction getting on Hwy 2 and had to backtrack about 5 miles. Either my GPS was confused or I programmed it with a route different than what I intended – not a big deal either way.

As the elevation climbed, I began to find myself in the clouds.

Hwy 2, San Gabriel Mtns, CA
Hwy 2, San Gabriel Mtns, CA

There was very little traffic. What there was seemed to consist of road maintenance vehicles, a few other bikers, and a few Corvettes 🙂

It started to rain. Near the Dawson Saddle (7901 feet) it started to hail. I stopped at a pullout to close the vents on my jacket and met Deirdre Smith who was hiking the Pacific Coast Trail. This woman had already hiked the Appalachian Trail and it was fun to chat with her for a few minutes.

Luckily the hail was small and the temperatures were warm enough that the road was not slick. Out of an abundance of caution, I did slow considerably until the temperatures rose back into the mid 40’s.

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By the time I reached Wrightwood, I was hungry and stopped at the Grizzly Cafe.

Grizzly Cafe in Wrightwood, CA
Grizzly Cafe in Wrightwood, CA

The food was good and the service excellent. Recommended if you’re in the area.

Running into hail made me cautious about going into the San Bernardino Mtns. Heading up Hwy 138 past Silverwood Lake, I encountered stronger winds coming off the mountains I was about to enter.

Silverwood Lake, CA

This road was well maintained and was quite twisty just past the lake.

Hwy 138 above Silverwood Lake, CA
Hwy 138 above Silverwood Lake, CA

Hwy 18 past Lake Arrowhead was next. I didn’t find this road worthy of the highest rating it received by the Butler folks. It was crowded and in bad shape. I was happy there was no rain or hail, but fog became a significant issue.

Hwy 18 near Lake Arrowhead, CA
Hwy 18 near Lake Arrowhead, CA

Reaching Running Springs, I decided to skip a visit to Big Bear Lake and took Hwy 330 off the mountain and into San Bernardino.

Splurging a little for a room at the Hampton Inn instead of the Motel 6 option I’ve been using, I made use of the heated outdoor pool (twice). All in all, another very good day 🙂

Day 12

Day 12 Route

Day’s distance: 144 miles
Total trip distance: 2,012 miles

The day was cloudy with light winds. Temperatures ranged from the mid 50’s to mid 70’s.

I traveled along the base of the San Bernardino Mountains and through Oak Glen. Oak Glen Road was called out as twisty and exciting on the Butler Map and that was my first destination. Again, I ran into fog and wet roads.

Oak Glen Road, CA
Oak Glen Road, CA

I rode conservatively through this area, partly because of the wet roads and fog, but also because there were businesses and homes throughout this area. I don’t really agree with the rating and wouldn’t recommend this route.

A short hop on Interstate 10 took me to Banning where I intended to ride up the San Jacinto Mountain using Hwy 243 and back down into Hemet along Hwy 74. I stopped at a school at the base because of the ominous looking clouds that covered the top of the mountain.

Clouds covering San Jacinto Mountain
Clouds covering San Jacinto Mountain

It was misting at the school and I knew if was going to be a wet and foggy crossing. I decided to detour around the mountain using I-10 and Hwy 79.

I stopped in Hemet for a bite to eat and continued on Hwy 74 from there. My next destination was the Ortega Highway through the Cleveland National Forest. There was cloud cover over the mountain here as well. I checked my weather app and there was no precipitation between Lake Elsinore and the coast indicated, so I proceeded.

I stopped at the The Lookout Road House for a photo of my motorcycle with Lake Elsinore in the background 🙂

Hwy 74 Vista Point
Hwy 74 Vista Point

This road was worthy despite the fast moving traffic. Here’s a photo from the Lake Elsinore side …

Ortega Hwy (Hwy 74)
Ortega Hwy (Hwy 74)

and one from the western side where much of the pavement seemed new.

Ortega Hwy (Hwy 74)
Ortega Hwy (Hwy 74)

I ran into traffic once I was off the mountain and quickly remembered how aggressive Southern California drivers are and how much traffic I’ve avoided by taking roads less popular. I am staying with friends in Huntington Beach for a few days and it didn’t take long to get there from Dana Point.

Despite not completing my entire planned route, it was a good day of riding and exploring.

Day 13

Day 13

Day’s distance: 0 miles
Total trip distance: 2,012 miles

The weather was cloudy with temperatures in the mid-60’s. It was misty at time.

I hung out with my hosts today. We had a Vietnamese lunch at Dat Thanh in Westminster (recommended), some wonderful English cheeses along with a Sones Cellars wine for an afternoon snack, and finally a visit to the pool and hot tub. After a nap, we drove into Hollywood to see ‘Avenue Q’ at the Cupcake Theater.

Hollywood, CA

Planning days off the bike is important to me. I try to schedule one day off each week, sometimes a full weekend. It helps reset my body and mind to continue the journey, resulting in lower overall stress levels, more patience to manage the inevitable challenges, and a little more energy on the days I do ride.

The weather is going to be sunnier tomorrow. The skies were clearing up this evening.

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Tomorrow’s destination is San Diego to visit my former housemate.

Day 14

Day 14 Route

Day’s mileage: 90 miles
Total trip mileage: 2,102 miles

Today was mostly sunny with temperatures in the 70’s. It was a really pleasant day.

It was just a hop down the coast today to San Diego to visit my former housemate, so there was no rush to leave early. David, Vickie and I had breakfast at the Sugar Shack in Huntington Beach’s downtown area. We then walked to the beach.

Beach time with mi amigos
Beach time with mi amigos

After playing in the water, we walked back to the condo and jumped in the pool. It was a fun morning and I have to say that I’ve had a really fun time hanging here in Huntington Beach. Many thanks to my hosts David and Vickie!

The time was 2pm when I packed up and headed down the coast.

Pacific Coast Highway
Pacific Coast Highway

I arrived at Blake’s in San Diego about 6pm. After a drink and some homemade salsa, Blake treated me to Whole Hog BBQ for dinner. I had a Cubano sandwich while Blake had ribs. Everything was really good. Back at the apartment, we had more drinks and some dessert.

During the first leg of this trip, the stretch down the coast, I’ve camped one night, stayed in motels five nights, and stayed with friends eight nights. I feel really privileged to be invited into their homes.

The next leg along the south will provide opportunities to camp more , weather permitting. Tomorrow I will leave California and enter Arizona.

Day 15

Day 15 Route

Day’s distance: 375 miles
Total trip distance: 2,477 miles

The weather was clear, sunny and starting to get hot. Temperatures rose up to the low 90’s west of Gila Bend.

Today was the highest mileage day so far. Much of my travel was on higher speed roads. I left San Diego about 8am. My first destination was the toll road Hwy 125. It was recommended on the Butler map and I found it scenic, smooth, twisty, and lightly traveled. There was a $2.50 toll charged upon exiting the highway. Hwy 125 first travels past Olay Lakes …

Olay Lakes, CA
Olay Lakes, CA

and then into the hills. I spoke briefly with another rider at a stoplight. He gets to ride this route to work everyday. He seemed stoked about it, especially on a beautiful day like today.

Hwy 94 was next. It was smooth with sweepers and elevation changes.

Hwy 94, CA

DCIM100GOPRO

Hwy 94 travels through small towns like Potero and Campo. Just prior to Campo, the border fence is very close to the highway.

Border Fence (to right of hwy)
Border Fence (to right of hwy)

Border patrol stops are frequent, though so far I’ve just been waived through.

Historic Hwy 80 was next. It allowed me to avoid getting on Hwy 8 for a little longer. Rougher pavement in spots, new pavement in other places. Seemed the least interesting of these three. I then had to travel Hwy 8 for a while until detouring towards Calexico on Hwy 98.

Hwy 98 starts out traveling through desert land. Mostly straight roads and 65 mph speed limits.

Hwy 98 west of Calexico, CA
Hwy 98 west of Calexico, CA

Suddenly desert turns into farmland where I believe they are mostly growing hay. Stopped in Calexico for brunch. Rosa’s Plane Food was highly rated and it located at this little deserted-looking (to me) airport on Second Ave. The food was excellent – highly recommended should you be in town.

Back on Hwy 98 for a long drive on boring, straight roads. I traveled past Algodones Dunes, and crossed into Arizona about 3pm. Then, I filled the tank in Gila Bend before heading south for Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, my camp for the night.

The camp wasn’t crowded, and the evening was cool and pleasant.

Camp at Organ Pipe Cactus Natl Monument
Camp at Organ Pipe Cactus Natl Monument
Organ Pipe Cactus Natl Monument
Organ Pipe Cactus Natl Monument

Tomorrow I head east into the Tucson area

Day 16

Day 16 Route

Day’s distance: 334 miles
Total trip distance: 2,811 miles

Today was mostly sunny with some fluffy white ‘Simpsons’ clouds here and there. Temperatures were largely in the 80’s but started and finished in the 70’s.

I woke up early, as often happens when I camped. Packing up camp at a leisurely pace, I was still ready to leave by about 7am.

Tire pressure … check. Oil level … check. Sena device (my bluetooth helmet communication unit) … Ugh. It wouldn’t turn on. I had problems late in the day yesterday, but simply thought the battery was drained so I had charged it overnight. Anyway, I tried to reset it using the controls to no avail.

The one-page manual for the Sena suggested depressing the very small reset button located on the back. I needed a pin or something similar, but everything I was carrying was too big. Luckily my nearest camp neighbors, who were also up packing, had something that worked and soon I was on my way.

I stopped at the Why Not Travel Store located a few miles north of camp in Why, AZ.

Why Not Travel Store in Why, AZ
Why Not Travel Store in Why, AZ

I noticed when I topped off my gas tank that they had an open wi-fi network so I purchased a cup of coffee and a snack and update the blog.

This morning’s destination was the Kitt Peak National Observatory. It’s elevation of 6,883 feet makes it an ideal home for the largest collection of optical telescopes in the world. And there is an 11-mile twisty two lane road that takes you to the top 🙂

Road to Kitt Peak, AZ
Road to Kitt Peak, AZ

I remember some 25 years ago when I first saw Saturn’s rings through a telescope belonging to the Cabrillo Community College Astronomy program. Everyone knows the planet has rings but when I first saw them for myself, I was quite giddy. It made a lasting impression.

Today I saw the sun’s surface through two telescopes here at Kitt Peak. Here’s a photo of the small telescopes used.

Telescopes used for solar viewing
Telescopes used for solar viewing

Looking through one of the telescopes showed the full light spectrum, resulting in an uninteresting white sun. The other telescope, with the yellow shade at the top, contained some very expensive filters that allowed only a small portion of the light spectrum, the frequency emitted by hydrogen gas, through to the eyepiece and one could see solar spots, if present, and prominence (flares), etc.. It was an orange-red color. No solar spots at this time but there was a hydrogen prominence that had broken off the surface of the sun. This experience was impressive and very cool –  I will likely remember it always.

It was after noon by the time I was again on my way. I stopped for lunch at Cindy Lou’s II, in Three Points, AZ. The place was well rated and turned out to be really good. I had a Southwestern Melt sandwich and about a gallon of ice tea 🙂

At this point, I wasn’t sure at this point whether I wanted to continue towards Nogales and where I was going to stay for the night. After talking to Carson, my housemate back in Seattle, he suggested I stay in Bisbee, AZ. It’s an interesting historical mining town – a small downtown would make it easy to find somewhere for dinner without having to get back on the bike.

He also suggested that I make a reservation early. This was brilliant as it turns out people that run the historic hotels go home at 6pm and I didn’t arrive until after 7pm. More on that later. I decided on the Eldorado Suites right in the historic downtown.

With reservations made and lunch finished, I continued to follow my Butler Motorcycle Map south on some roads that were marked as interesting. Thing is, I was a little casual today about my route.

I traveled Hwy 286 south to Arivaca Road. The first half was a little rough, but the second half seemed to have better pavement.

Arivaca Road, AZ
Arivaca Road, AZ

I turned south at I-19 until reaching Hwy 82. The land seemed more fertile as I entered the hills of the Coronado National Forest. Encouraged to keep exploring, I took Hwy 83 south. This road turned out to be a very rough, very crappy country road with speed limits of of mostly 25 mph.

The route I followed dead-ended at the West Gate of Fort Huachuca, a military base. I honestly thought when I looked on the map that this was some sort of nature preserve or historical site. Instead, I end up at an automated, highly secured gate with cameras and everything. 🙁

It was after 6pm, and the sun was falling fast. I don’t like traveling at night on the motorcycle and I started to feel a bit panicked. There was a call button, so I pressed it hoping for the best.

Someone answered and I told them I was lost, I was trying to get to Bisbee before dark and I didn’t want to retrace 60 miles of what was mostly crappy country roads. I guess they took pity on me and after presenting my driver’s license to the camera, they let me pass through the gates and cut through the base.

Of course, I got lost on the base because none of the roads are straight and there are no road signs on how to get to the East Gate. The first person I asked, apparently a German officer there for training, had only been there two weeks and wasn’t helpful. He did say that he owned a 1983 BMW motorcycle and loved it (everyone has a motorcycle story).

The two enlisted soldiers I asked about 10 minutes later seemed very intimidated and didn’t know whether they should salute, stand at attention or parade rest, who I was, or anything. Eventually, one of them gave me some pointers.

Anyway, I finally found someone who pointed me in the right direction at the gas station. I filled up and took off out the East Gate. It was now 7pm and almost dark.

This story was hilarious to tell Carson and all turned out well, thanks to decision of the person who controlled access to the base (thanks!). I really got a kick out of the reactions of the soldiers, especially the young enlisted men who seemed really scared someone without a recognizable rank was talking to them.

Bisbee looks like a wonderful place. The suite was super large, with its own living room, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, and walk-in closet. I had a light dinner and a not-light dessert at The Bisbee Table located conveniently in the historic district. Recommended.

Eldorado Suites in Bisbee, AZ
Eldorado Suites in Bisbee, AZ

It looks out over the historic part of town. This view is from my balcony.

Eldorado Suites in Bisbee, AZ
Eldorado Suites in Bisbee, AZ

Overall, besides being a long day, it was an eventful day. Even the really crappy road led me to seeing some wonderful country. I am continual surprised at the variety of environments here in Arizona. It is fast becoming one of my favorites places to visit on a motorcycle.

Hwy 82, AZ
Hwy 82, AZ

Day 17

Day 17 Route

Day’s distance: 326 miles
Total trip distance: 3,137 miles

Today’s weather was close to ideal. Temperatures from high 60’s to mid 70’s. Light winds with moderate gusts were the only downside.

Despite getting up early, I didn’t get out of Bisbee until about 9:30am. I didn’t post to the blog last night and had to complete it this morning. Then I worked out my route details for today. Since the folks at Butler Maps haven’t published anything for New Mexico, I used motorcycleroads.com as a resource. Finally, I cleaned up, packed the bike, and turned in the key to the very friendly staff.

Again, I really liked the Eldorado and recommend it.

The ride from Bisbee through Douglas to the border consisted mostly of relatively straight roads and landscape that was only kinda sort of scenic. Sometimes you just have to get through it.

Interestingly, the folks at Butler Maps identified Hwy 80 between Douglas and the border as a ‘Lost Highway’, by that they mean “a byway that seems lost in time.” There was very little traffic along the entire length, and with a few hills and curves just north of Douglas, maybe it is an apt description.

Entering New Mexico lifted my spirits.

Hwy 80 at border of New Mexico and Arizona
Hwy 80 at border of New Mexico and Arizona

The landscape of New Mexico changed as I traveled north. Here’s the area near the border crossing …

Landscape near San Simon, AZ
Landscape near San Simon, AZ

and near Mimbres, located at the southern part of the Gila National Forest.

DCIM100GOPRO
Near Mimbres, NM

Today, my actual route differed significantly from my planned route. I intended to spend more time in the Gila National Forest along Hwy 152.

Intended Day 17 Route from Silver City
Intended Day 17 Route from Silver City

It turns out when I programmed the Garmin (GPS) this morning, I included an unintended way point, Mimbres. This can happen when I ‘move’ the default route by selecting part of the route and moving it over to an alternative road (just like on Google maps only more inclined to include unexpected way points).

I suspected the turn off Hwy 125 onto Hwy 30 wasn’t intended, but I followed it anyway. Without a map of New Mexico with me and having no cell reception, I had no way to check.

When I reached Mimbres, the GPS recalculated the route by taking me still further north along Hwy 30 until it found a set of roads that could turn me around without a making a U-turn.

You see, one of the Garmin settings is called Avoidances. It allows a user to avoid tolls, ferries, U-turns, traffic, and highways. I had it set to avoid U-turns. The consequence today was another 7 miles of travel north when I shouldn’t have been on Hwy 30 at all. 🙁

When I confirmed I was off my intended route, and without other resources, I chose to simply reprogram the GPS to take me to Las Cruces by the fastest route possible. No longer using my programmed route, I was directed to Hwy 61 instead of Hwy 152.

With a planned 300+ mile day, getting ‘lost’ was frustrating and time-consuming. However, it turned out that Hwy 61 was a really, really nice highway.

Hwy 61, AZ

Hwy 61 led me to Hwy 180 and I took that south to Deming. It wasn’t as scenic.

Hwy 180, north of Deming, AZ

Back on Interstate 10, I stopped at a rest area for a bathroom break. Inside the men’s room, there was music playing. It was the Rolling Stones singing “You can’t alway get what you want, but if you try real hard, sometimes you get what you need.”

Indeed, I got my beautiful road, despite it not being the road I wanted.

I powered into Las Cruces on I-10 and I-85, both of which have speed limits higher than anywhere in Washington. That was an excuse to crank up my beautiful beast and was fun, just a different kind of fun.

I have since changed the Avoidance setting preventing U-turns and I will also take a screen shot of the route details in case I don’t have paper maps or cell reception. This issue shouldn’t come up again.

I can’t wait for the next ‘issue’. 🙂

PS – the odometer turned 25,000 miles while I was in Silver City. You go, Girl !!

Day 18

Day 18 Route

Day’s distance: 281 miles
Total trip distance: 3,418 miles

The weather was hotter today, with highs reaching the mid to upper 80’s in the afternoon. Winds were light with moderate gusts at times.

It was almost 10am when I finally left Las Cruces today. An earlier departure was planned but eating breakfast at the motel, packing up, stopping to purchase a quart of oil from an auto supply store, and then separately stopping for gas, the time slipped away.

There is a long, very strait stretch of Hwy 70 adjacent to the White Sands Missle Range. The winds were a bit gusty so both hands on the bars while doing 75 mph.

I took about 45 minutes to make an unplanned stop at White Sands National Monument. There is a 5-mile long road that takes visitors to a observation area. Taking the walkway, …

White Sands National Monument
White Sands National Monument

I hoped for a vista-like view but was disappointed. So you get to see a selfie with the local white sand dunes instead 🙂

Selfie at the White Sands National Monument
Selfie at the White Sands National Monument

Hwy 70 passed through a variety of scenery. This scenic historical marker is well located for a view of the stunning Sierra Blanca Peak.

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I also really enjoyed the views from the part of Hwy 48 north of Alto.

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Because of the late start, I shortened my route midday. I was in Capitan, where Hwy 48 ends, when I was getting concerned about the time. Taking Hwy 246 north around the Capitan Mountains was my planned route, but instead I decided to take the Billy-the-Kid Trail back to Hwy 70, staying to the south of the Capitan Mountains.

day 18 descision point

The Trail was a scenic, lightly traveled, well paved two-lane road that passed through several small towns.

Soon enough I was back on Hwy 70. This part was not scenic, but again straight and fast. I stopped at a roadside table (rest area) …

Hwy 70 rest area west of Roswell, NM
Hwy 70 rest area west of Roswell, NM

when I discovered I was traveling near the now decommissioned Atlas Missle Silos.

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My last stop before the campground today was Roswell, where I passed by the UFO Museum.

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I didn’t spend much time in Roswell. It was congested and I was too hot to deal with it. I took off towards Carlsbad and the KOA campground I chose to stay at because motels are pricey here. This place has internet (albeit slow), a pool, and a restaurant of sorts. It isn’t too scenic or too close to town, but it is inexpensive.

I leave you with the obligatory camp setup photo. Enjoy 🙂

Carlsbad KOA

Day 19

Day 19 Route

Day’s distance: 92 miles
Total trip distance: 3,510 miles

The weather was sunny and warm, with temperatures ranging from 55 this morning to the high 80’s this afternoon.

Today was a rest day. My only scheduled activity on the bike was to visit Carlsbad Caverns.

I was awakened several times in the early morning by vehicles leaving the park. We’re talking just after 4am. I will have to move my tent before crashing tonight – there is plenty of room.

I took off a little after 7am and headed for The Blue House Bakery & Cafe. It is on a side street and looks like a well-kept private home.

The Blue House Bakery & Cafe in Carlsbad, NM

The latte and muffin was very good but the croissant stole the show. Highly recommended. I’ll be stopping by again tomorrow morning on my way out of town. 🙂

The Caverns are about 20 miles south of Carlsbad. It didn’t take long with the generous speed limits outside of towns here in New Mexico.

Carlsbad Caverns, NM

I spent roughly three hours total there. The cave was the biggest I’ve seen, by far.

I walked down through the ‘Natural Entrance’, as opposed to the elevator, which I used to exit the cavern.

Natural Entrance, Carlsbad Cavern, NM
Natural Entrance, Carlsbad Cavern, NM

I considered the guided tour, which covers an additional and more decorative part of the cavern, but I didn’t want to be part of a large group. It was the right choice as I encountered the group later – it was approximately 80 people 🙁

I followed the entire self-guided path, some 2.25 miles. My boots were comfortable to walk in, though that is about the limit. Changing from my riding pants to a pair of jeans in the men’s room prior to entering the cave, I used my cable lock to secure the riding pants, jacket, and helmet to the bike. Since my camp was still set up, I used the top case to secure my tank bag, minus the camera.

Most of the formations in the cave were no longer ‘living’, which is a bit disappointing. I’ll try to put together a slide show at some point in the near future.

I asked a park ranger for lunch recommendations and was sent to Junior’s in Carlsbad for Mexican. The food was good and plentiful. Another recommend if you’re in the area. Be warned, it doesn’t look like much from outside.

Tomorrow I’ll be entering Texas, intending at this time to camp at Chisos Basin. I don’t expect internet connectivity so my next post may be Sunday.

Time to eat and maybe jump in the pool once more before it closes. I do live a charmed life 🙂

Day 20

Day 20 Route

Day’s distance: 186 miles
Total trip distance: 3,696 miles

Temperatures reached the high 80’s with partly cloudy skies – mostly Simpsons clouds but I saw some thunderclouds north of Fort Davis. Winds were generally mild with some stronger gusts.

My day started with breakfast at The Blue House Bakery, the cafe I tried yesterday. The breakfast burrito was delicious, as was today’s croissant. A triple 12oz latte set my mind right for the 75mph speed limits around here. 🙂

Hwy 285 south is mostly straight and until reaching Texas, seemed to have a lot of potholes. That’s likely from the tanker trucks hauling oil from the wells distributed along the highway. They seemed to represent a majority of the traffic I saw.

Here was one of the more picturesque sections.

Hwy 285 south of Carlsbad, NM
Hwy 285 south of Carlsbad, NM

You can cover a lot of ground going 75mph. I’m used to 55mph or slower on the “back roads” in Washington. In New Mexico, and now in Texas, many lesser highways are 75mph. The bike is running well and I’ve gotten used to using the cruise control much more than last year.

I took a break in Pecos for a chocolate shake. I wasn’t hungry for lunch but needed a few minutes off the bike.

Sonic Drive In, Pecos TX
Sonic Drive In, Pecos TX

Hwy 17 gets more interesting as it approaches Balmorhea.

Hwy 17 just north of Balmorhea, TX
Hwy 17 just north of Balmorhea, TX

When investigating campgrounds in this area, I came across Balmorhea State Park. Interestingly, the images for this State Park were of a swimming pool. Turns out the park is home to the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool, covering 1.75 acres. The water is as deep as 30 feet and the park encourages snorkeling and scuba diving.

I stopped here today and enjoyed the two hours I spent swimming and relaxing. Well worth the $7 entrance fee. The park had changing rooms but no lockers, so I left my tank bag containing the cameras, backup drive, USB battery,etc. with the park staff in the office.

Balmorhea State Park, TX
Balmorhea State Park, TX

My tentative plans for today, drawn up about two months ago now, had me camping in the Big Bend National Park. However, being a Saturday, I was concerned I would not arrive at the campground early enough to claim a first-served camp spot. The park is much more popular than I expected.

So this morning, I decide to stay at a campground in Fort Davis instead, and ride through the entire park tomorrow. So after the pool, I had a few more miles to ride.

Fort Davis is situated against the southeastern edge of the Davis Mountains. Many of the downtown businesses and lodgings are housed in historic buildings. The McDonald Observatory, is nearby but not on my itinerary this time.

The ‘campground’ is actually an RV park about one mile from downtown Fort Davis, but as far as I can tell, I’m the only camper here.

MacMillen RV Park and Campground, Fort Davis TX
MacMillen RV Park and Campground, Fort Davis TX

I had dinner at the Fort Davis Drug Store (Hotel and Restaurant). The brisket special which was good, not great.

Fort Davis Drug Store
Fort Davis Drug Store
Fort Davis Drug Store
Fort Davis Drug Store

A 400+ mile day tomorrow that takes me through both the State and National Big Bend Parks and then to Del Rio. I’m looking forward to seeing these two parks.

Until tomorrow !!

Day 21

Day 21 Route

Day’s distance: 410 miles
Total Trip distance: 4,106 miles

The weather was mostly sunny with the clouds clearing up as the morning progressed. Temperatures started in the high 50’s and reached the mid 80’s. The winds were mild this morning but by this afternoon they were moderate and gusty.

I woke up early to get to breakfast at 7am when the restaurant opened. After parking the bike, I grabbed a shot of the beautiful sunrise.

Sunrise in Fort Davis, TX
Sunrise in Fort Davis, TX

The saying goes, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning” In other words, red sunrises often indicate coming rains. Luckily there was no rain on me today.

I had the pleasure to share breakfast with two Texas residents, Donna and Paul. Paul was parking their Beemer near mine. As sometimes happens on my adventures, a quick hello turned into sharing a meal and hints about where to ride and good places to eat along the way. Thanks, you two!!

Because our order took over an hour to get to the table, I didn’t leave Fort Davis until almost 9am.

The aim of today’s ride was to travel through both Big Bend Ranch State Park and Big Bend National Park. Of the two, I really thought the State Park’s roads were more fun. Good pavement, roller coaster hills and scenic views.

Here are some of the photos I took throughout the day.

Hwy 17 south of Fort Davis
Hwy 17 south of Fort Davis
Big Bend Ranch State Park Hwy 170 adjacent to the Rio Grande
Big Bend Ranch State Park Hwy 170 adjacent to the Rio Grande

Big Bend Ranch State Park (Hwy 170)

Big Bend Ranch (Hwy 170) with Rio Grande in the background
Big Bend Ranch (Hwy 170) with Rio Grande in the background

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Main Park Drive, north of the Visitor's Center
Main Park Drive, north of the Visitor’s Center
Hwy 90 east of Marathon, TX
Hwy 90 east of Marathon, TX
Pecos River Bridge on Hwy 90
Pecos River Bridge on Hwy 90

I met a few other riders while taking a break in the National Park. I really dig the community of traveling bikers.

Tonight I’m staying in a motel in Del Rio and look forward to traveling the ‘Twisted Sisters,” three roads popular with Texan motorcyclists tomorrow.

Day 22

Day 22 Route

Day’s distance: 251 miles
Total trip distance: 4,357 miles

Clouds filled the skies with temperatures mostly in the 70’s. It was also more humid than past days.

Today’s goal was to ride through Texas Hill Country, including the ‘Twisted Sisters’, three Ranch Roads identified by both the folks at Butler Maps as exemplary.

It rained a bit overnight, but the roads were mostly dry when I left the motel. I stopped at a nearby gas station to fill up the tank and to put some air in both tires. I’m running the Pilot Road 4’s at 42 (rear) and 40 (front) at this time.

The roads became more interesting soon after turning north off Hwy 10 at Bracketville. Traffic was very light, and the road surfaces on these two-lane Ranch Roads, as they are called, were generally very good.

Ranch Road 334
Ranch Road 334

I ran into rain showers before reaching Camp Wood. RadarScope, the iPhone weather app that I purchased last year, indicated more scattered showers in my area but minimal precipitation, so I simply closed the vents on my helmet and jacket and continued, albeit at a conservative pace.

Just north of Camp Wood, the road forks and the first ‘Sister’ begins. This is Ranch Road 335 and it continues until reaching Hwy 41. The second ‘Sister’, Ranch Road 336, runs south off Hwy 41 into Leakey. I had a good time on both these roads, but found RR 335 to be my favorite. It seemed more dramatic, maybe because it was first, and the road surface slightly better.

As it was after 1pm at this time, I stopped at the Buckhorn Bar and Grill in Leadkey for lunch.

Buckhorn Bar and Grill, Leakey, TX
Buckhorn Bar and Grill, Leakey, TX

While eating, I noticed the app indicating heavier precipitation coming my way. I thought I could travel east along the third leg before it got too bad and it turned out that was correct.

Ranch Road 337, the final ‘Sister’, runs east from Leakey past Vanderpool and towards Medina.

All three roads turned out to be worthy and pretty much unlike anything I had ridden in Washington. They were narrow, and seemed to climb part way up the hillside out of canyon only to drop back down again, repeatedly. There were straight sections, typically past the ranch entrances and fields, sweepers, roller coaster sections that went down and then back up quickly, and blind curves with signs suggesting 10mph. The surfaces were generally good with the exception of parts of RR 336, which had a lot of tar snacks.

I saw signs indicating the number of motorcycle deaths along these roads. There have been seven on RR336 since 2006 and ten on RR 337 in the same timeframe. I was told on the weekends these are quite popular with local riders who travel much faster than I was going today.

Stopping to take pictures of the really interesting parts was not possible as the road was too narrow and there were no turnouts. I was glad that I chose to use the GoPro, and I’ll likely create a video of this ride in the near future. Here are a few video captures for now.

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I took Hwy 16 into Kerrville and on into Fredericksburg, stopping at a car wash there to clean the bugs and grime I had been collecting since Santa Cruz.

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The Peach Tree Inn, an old-fashioned motor court, is where I called home for the night. The room was nice and I met a few women bikers from Louisiana who were also staying.

My next tentative destination was Austin. However, I think I’m going to head to Corpus Christi instead. I’m getting excited to see the Gulf Coast and I’m hoping to avoid the thundershowers predicted for the Austin area.

Day 23

Day 23 Route

Day’s distance: 257 miles
Total trip distance: 4,614 miles

It was a cloudy day with light rain showers from about 11am to 4pm. Temperatures started in the low 70’s and the high was about 80.

I left Texas Hill Country today, bound for the Gulf Coast. I found the Hill Country scenic, the Ranch Roads fun, and the people friendly. Certainly, I’ll be back to ride more of the area’s roads.

Note: The photo below was taken yesterday, but I forgot to include it in the blog until now.

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Texas Hill Country

I didn’t leave the Peach Tree Inn until 10am, having to finish the prior day’s blog entry. As you can see from the photo below, the day began cloudy but dry.

Peach Tree Inn, Fredericksburg, TX
Peach Tree Inn, Fredericksburg, TX

Accuweather.com was predicting thunderstorms in both Fredericksburg and Austin, and I was excited to get to the Gulf Coast so I changed my plans and headed to Corpus Christi where the weather was predicted to be better.

Before leaving Fredericksburg, I wanted to grab a latte. I stopped at Austin Street Java and Muffin House. Inside, I met fellow rider Lynda as well as Judy and the owner Binky. We talked about my trip, some of Judy’s trips, and other topics while I drank my latte and ate a really good muffin. Recommended if you’re in the area.

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I left the city and headed south. One of the roads I used was Ranch Road 1376. It would take me out of the hill country, so I took one last photo before the landscape flattened again.

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I stopped at a taco trailer in Boerne for lunch and  had a couple of tacos that were messy to eat but yummy.

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I was back on the road in just about 20 minutes. A definite advantage when traveling is getting good, locally distinct food fast 🙂 On my way to the islands off Corpus Christi, I stopped at Alamo BMW to get a spare quart of oil for keeping with me on the road.

Close readers of the blog may remember I stopped at an auto parts store when I was in Las Cruces. I couldn’t find the correct oil, but wanted something if needed. Turns out I could have waited but I wanted to err on the safe side.

I arrived in Corpus Christi just before 5pm. Traffic was a little heavy but I made it out to Padre Island and then Mustang Island before 6pm. Mustang Island State Park was a possible place to camp. They had a primitive area (for tents) right on the beach as well as campsites with electricity further away but it was too windy to camp in either spot.

While I was checking out the primitive camp area, I took a photo of the bike on the beach.

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Texans drive on the beaches here, though not within 50 feet of the waters edge, according to a sign I read. The sand at this spot was well packed, but I still needed to put down the kickstand pad I carry with me to prevent the bike from falling over.

Instead of trying to camp on the beach, I found a older (and less expensive) motel right on the beach in Port Aransas. It’s a bit rundown and not for princesses, but I could deal with the shortcomings.

After dinner at Kody’s Restaurant and Bar, I walked along the beach a bit. It was still balmy even though it was after 9pm.

A good day, I say. 🙂

Day 24

Day 24 Route

Day’s distance: 301 miles
Total trip distance: 4,915 miles

The weather was cloudy most of the day, but less so as the afternoon progressed. It was windy all day, or as I was told by a Texan, ‘breezy’.

I started the day with a ferry ride off of Mustang Island.

Port Aransas Ferry Crossing
Port Aransas Ferry Crossing

The ferry was free and the ride lasted only a few minutes.

Most of the roads today were straight and very flat compared to where I’ve been. The road I was most interested in today was the Bluewater Highway. It begins after crossing this bridge …

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into Surfside Beach. As it took a few hours to arrive here, I was a little hungry and needed a break, so I stopped at Hammond’s shaved ice trailer.

Hammond's Shaved Ice
Hammond’s Shaved Ice

I had a chance to talk to the owners, Melinda and Glenn.

Glenn is a licensed captain and fishing guide. On days too windy to take out the boat, he helps Melinda. She designed this first class food trailer and runs the business. They are super friendly folks and the shaved ice hit the spot. On they weekend they serve BBQ, as well. Stop by and say hello if you’re nearby.

In Surfside Beach, there seemed to be mostly individual homes and small motels, with everything designed on ‘stilts’ to survive storm surges.

Surfside Beach, TX
Surfside Beach, TX

The beaches are wide here with access for your car.

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Crossing the San Luis Pass toll bridge takes you onto Galveston Island, another barrier island along the Bluewater Highway. It seemed the individual homes here were built bigger and often as closed communities. There were signs indicating rentals were available, and I’m certain this place is popular in the summer.

The northeast tip of this island is more commercial with large hotels, narrower beaches, and more tourist attractions, including an amusement park on a pier.

Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier
Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier

I took another (free) ferry to the Bolivar Pennisula.

Galveston Island Ferry
Galveston Island Ferry

This was a longer ride and the boat is tossed around more on the swells generated by the winds. I stayed on the bike the whole time to help ensure it didn’t tip off its kickstand.

After stopping for gas on the peninsula, I noticed I picked up a nail in my rear tire. Turned out it was pretty small and lodge in tangentially. The tire pressure remained good after I pulled out the nail, and I continued on my way.

Thanks to Will, my regular Seattle riding buddy, as well, for his support. I also had a patch kit and an electric air pump should things have turned out differently.

It was late when I arrived in Port Arthur. I stopped to eat before checking in to my motel. The sky was dark by then and with one final check of the tire’s pressure, I went to my room.

The folks I met in Port Davis a few days back, Paul and Donna live nearby. We arranged to meet for breakfast tomorrow. I look forward to seeing them again and to my stay in the French Quarter tomorrow evening.

Day 25

Day 25 Route

Day’s distance: 314 miles
Total trip distance: 5,229 miles

It was a warm, mostly sunny day with temperatures ranging from the mid 70’s to the mid 80’s. I missed most of the rain that passed through the area, but was caught in some light showers at one point for just a few minutes. The wind was light today.

Today started with breakfast at the Magnolia Diner in Port Neches. Paul, another BMW rider I met while in Fort Davis on Day 21 lives in this area and was able to join me for another shared meal.

After breakfast, we stopped quickly at Paul’s house to use the bathroom and check on my rear tire. The pressure was good. My concern about having picked up a nail set aside, we took off for Hwy 82.

Paul owns two BMWs and chose to ride his R90/6 today instead of the more modern GS that he and Donna ride on longer trips. Despite its age, that R90 was zippy and Paul navigated the route from Port Neches, over the bridge at Sabine Pass, and to the Louisiana coast easily and quickly.

On last year’s Western States Tour, I only spent one day crossing Texas through Amarillo. This trip, I entered Texas on Day 20 and stayed four full days before leaving today. I feel like I was lucky to be able to see so much this time.

Hwy 82 travels along the coast, sometimes close to the shore …

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and sometimes a little farther away.

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In a little less than 50 miles, we were at the ferry crossing just west of Cameron, LA. The ferry was free and travel from west to east took only a few minutes once the ferry arrived. Today, a temporary ferry terminal was in use.

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Cameron has a history of rebuilding after storms.

In a few places along Hwy 82, local residents were fishing in the channels along the highway. Homes along the route were built off the ground or on small (man-made?) hills to protect them from storm surges.

The roads seemed to be in great shape and we stayed at the 55mph speed limits. I saw a small aligator in the road. This was a first for me on my motorcycle adventures. It was likely about six feet and it did run back into the grass as we approached. I also saw several turtles crossing the road. Hope they made it. 🙂

Paul and I shared a soda at a gas station near the intersection of Hwy 82 and Hwy 14. He took Hwy 14 west back to Port Arthur and I traveled east towards I-90 and New Orleans. I arrived at my hotel about 4:30pm, cleaned up and had a drink at the hotel bar before walking along Bourbon Street.

Bourbon Street, New Orleans
Bourbon Street, New Orleans

This was my first time visiting the city. Bourbon St. is the famous party street in the heart of the French Quarter. I was impressed by the hustle and grit, the barkers luring tourists into the clubs, the noise and the music coming from every direction. Cars are blocked from using Bourbon St. but use the side streets. There were police at each of these intersections, both in patrol cars and on horseback, keeping an eye on everything.

Traveling even one block off Bourbon St., the crowds diminished as did the noise.

I enjoyed a steak dinner and a martini at Dickie Brennan’s just off Bourbon Street. Sitting at the bar, I met a local architect and his wife. We laughed and talked about my trip and they gave me some suggestions on places to stay while in Florida.

After dinner and another walk down Bourbon St. and a few of the side streets …

New Orleans musicians
New Orleans musicians

I called it a night. What a great day and what an adventure!

Day 26

Day 26 Route

Day’s distance: 261 miles
Total trip distance: 5,490 miles

Another mostly sunny day with temperatures between the mid 70’s and the mid 80’s. Winds were light. The evening was very pleasant.

I departed New Orleans about 10am after getting my bike out of the parking garage and loading it up. Heading east on Hwy 10, then turning onto the ‘Chef’s Highway’ (Hwy 90), I was soon east of Lake Pontchartrain and into Mississippi.

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Hwy 90 hugs the Gulf Coast on a sometimes 2-lane, sometimes more concrete road in generally good condition. Where Louisiana had more wetlands, Mississippi seemed to be more forested. I passed through Gulfport and Biloxi, mostly taking in the sights.

I did stop at The Shed, off Hwy 57, for lunch.

The Shed off Hwy 57
The Shed off Hwy 57

This was an interesting place, lots of character …

The Shed BBQ

and pieces of wisdom here and there. I liked this one stapled to one of the rafters.

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During lunch, I was trying to locate a good campground for the night. Turns out there was a great campground near Destin that was able to accommodate me, Henderson Beach State Park. It was starting to get late, so I stayed on Interstate 10 through Alabama and headed for the park.

As I pulled into the park, the sign said they were full, but I asked anyway. They called a nearby campground for me but they, too, were full. Since it was late, the folks at Henderson assigned me to an ’emergency site’. Turns out that was full, but then they had a last minute cancellation and so I was in (again). Lucky !!!

It was expensive for a campsite ($30) but totally worth it. Each site felt private and the bathrooms were big and clean, there were laundry machines available, and an amazing path that was used as private access for the campers to the beach.

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The sand here is much whiter than the sand near Corpus Christi.

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There was a sign on the path that indicated the original 2-lane Hwy 98 was much closer to the beach.

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Glad it isn’t there now 🙂

Just a few more days to Key West. I’m actually one day ahead of schedule and will likely arrive on Monday, instead of Tuesday.

Day 27

Day 27 Route

Day’s distance: 373 miles
Total trip distance: 5,863 miles

The weather was sunny, hot, and humid. Temperatures started in the mid 70’s but climbed to 94 and stayed around there throughout the day. The winds were light.

I departed the campsite about 9am and stopped at a nearby Starbucks for a latte and a breakfast sandwich. Since they have wi-fi, I was able to post a blog entry while I ate. It was about 10am when I finished up and hit the road.

Following Hwy 98 most of the day, I noticed the beaches weren’t as wide or long as they were near Destin, but this section, located at Carrabelle, seemed a popular exception.

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Inlets and bays were popular fishing spots. It’s clear that parts of my route traveled through fishing country.

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Hwy 98 moved away from the coast shortly after Carrabelle. While scenic, the scenery didn’t change much. It seemed like I was staring at a corridor of trees forever 🙁 Some electronic music helped me push on.

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I stopped for breaks now and then …

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and took a few photos to feel productive while rehydrating.

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I didn’t make it as far as St. Petersburg, but the mileage was exactly what was planned. Recall that yesterday I didn’t quite make it to Panama City.

There were a lot of motorcycles on the road. Except for those folks who seemed like long distance riders, few bikers wore helmets or jackets. Harley-Davidsons are easily the most popular bike in this part of Florida.

Day 28

Day 28 Route

Day’s distance: 305 miles
Total trip distance: 6,168 miles

Another hot and humid day, with high temperatures of mid 90’s above the road surfaces. A few brief showers while in the Everglades cooled things down for a while, then back up into the low 90’s afterwards. Winds were light.

Except for the Tamiami Trail, Hwy 41 through the Glades, today’s route was pretty much congested roads and freeways. I chose this route for expediency – it is too hot and the gear I’m wearing is too uncomfortable to be stuck in traffic sitting still under the Florida sun.

As it was, I stopped frequently to purchase cold drinks and extra water. I would pour some of the cold water on my LD Comfort shirt so that it would keep my cool under my jacket.

There are two roads through the Everglades. Interstate 75, or the Everglades Parkway, is a toll road and travels east to west through the northern part of the Everglades. Hwy 41, or the Tamiami Trail so named as it travels between Tampa and Miami, is only one lane in each direction and has no barriers keeping the local wildlife off the roads. Of course, I chose the latter. 🙂

Hwy 41 entering the Everglades from the East.
Hwy 41 entering the Everglades from the East.

Traveling Hwy 41 takes you through the Big Cypress National Preserve.

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It is a straight, two-lane road that is in good condition and is very scenic. I saw many groups of bikers who seemed to be out for a day ride. All along the highway, there were campsites, places offering swamp buggy and/or airboat rides, and tours.

About 20 minutes into the Natl Preserve, it started to rain so I pulled off at a rest stop to check my weather app and use the bathroom.

The rain stopped and since the rest area had been set up with a short path along the water, I grabbed my camera.

Rest area along Hwy 41
Rest area along Hwy 41

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When I was ready to go, I checked my weather app.

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It was showing more potential for rain to the south but I thought I could avoid it as it was moving slowly. I took off and did, in fact, avoid it.

The Everglades are an amazing place and I’ll have to return with the intention of exploring them more thoroughly. One last photo of the road, this one from the western half of the Tamiami Trail.

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I arrived at my motel about 5pm. After cleaning up, I walked to a Cuban restaurant and had dinner, then returned and hung out by the pool until calling it a night.

Tomorrow I reach Key West, my turnaround point, where I’ll hang out for a week with friends.

Day 29

Day 29 Route

Day’s distance: 134 miles
Total trip distance: 6,302 miles

Today was cooler than the past few, with temperatures in the mid 80’s. Sunny with some clouds providing occasional relief, especially in the afternoon. Winds were moderate.

The ride through the Keys was easy. I had to arrive after 4pm so I lounged around the hotel until checkout at 11am. Then I set the GoPro on my helmet and recorded video on my way down Hwy 1.

My first stop was for a late breakfast at Harriette’s. I saw this place and turned around to stop. It was crowded and the sign says they’ve been there for 30 years. Sounded like the place to be.

Harriette's, Key Largo
Harriette’s, Key Largo

I sat up at the breakfast bar and spoke to a 33 year resident of Key Largo. The food was good and the ice tea refilled many times. Definitely recommended !!

My next stop was a rest area in Lower Matecumbe Key. It seems power lines follow the highway down the Keys on one side or the other. They aren’t photogenic but I included it here as part of the record of life here.

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My last stop before arriving was at Veteran’s Memorial Park on Little Duck Key, where I saw a coconut vendor. It seemed appropriate to stop and try one 🙂

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The vendor, Tony, had some great motorcycle stories and we talked for about 30 minutes.

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The cold coconut milk through a straw hit the spot.

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Finally, I had to stop at the Southernmost Point in the continental US for a photo, signaling the end of the first leg of my journey across the country (and back). Parking is restricted and there were crowds in front of the marker, so I parked across the street and took a quick photo.

The Southernmost Point in the US
The Southernmost Point in the US

I arrived at my friend’s Andy and Kai shortly after 4pm. We celebrated with drinks by the pool. I’m happy to have arrived; traveling through ten states, meeting loads of people, seeing some great parts of the country, camping some, and having no problems with the motorcycle.

I’ll take a week off here, parking my motorcycle and renting a bicycle to get around the island. 🙂

Day 30

Today was the first day just hanging out in Key West. I’m staying with friends at their place very close to Duval Street for about a week.

The first thing we did was rent a bicycle for me to use to get around this end of the island. They cost under $60 per week and is really the optimal way to get around. It comes with lights and a lock and with it you can avoid the hassle of finding a place to park.

Andy was on his bike so together we did a quick orientation around the lower end of the island. Stopping for lattes and egg sandwiches at Old Town Bakery, we had some breakfast sweets put in a bag for later. Then we rode around, Andy playing tour guide, me getting a sense of where things are for later exploration.

We rode past the harbor.

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to the Little White House

Little White House

Riding down Duval street to the other side of the island, I walked out on the pier at the Southernmost beach,

The Southern Most Beach

and then we made our way back home to hang out by the saltwater pool.

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I feel that I have to keep saying it, I live a charmed life 🙂

After relaxing and swimming, and walking out to the sandbars in the Gulf, I washed the collection of bugs and road grime off the bike.

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This has to be the most scenic car wash area in the Keys !!

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The afternoon passed by quickly and it was soon time for dinner. We gathered and rode the bikes down Duval Street (the opposite way this time) …

Duval Street, Key West
Duval Street, Key West

to our destination, Keyviche, one of Key West’s newer seafood restaurants. I had a ceviche sampler with three different sauces; yellow pepper, riccoto pepper aioli, and an aji lime pepper, the latter being my favorite.

We then made it back to the harbor for sunset, where street performers gather each evening to entertain.

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The sunset was beautiful, more so than this photo could capture.

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We rode home and soon called it just another day in paradise.

Day 31

Another day in paradise 🙂 This is day 2 of about a week off the bike and hanging with friends who live here in Key West. I get around Old Town on a bicycle and do a lot of eating out and hanging at the pool here and the local beaches.

I have just a few photos today. As I spend time relaxing, I’m also leaving my phone and camera behind and my pockets empty of everything except some cash.

My ride for the Week
My ride for the Week
The Key West Coca-Cola bottling company started in this building in 1903
The Key West Coca-Cola bottling company started here in 1903
Posing with Marilyn outside the Tropic Cinema
Posing with Marilyn outside the Tropic Cinema

I had breakfast at the Banana Cafe, and dinner at Santiago’s Bodega. The dijon mustard, pecan bread crumb and thyme encrusted Petite Lamb Rack was especially good at Santiago’s.

I’m really enjoying my stay and the time off the bike. Old Town Key West has been very quiet and we haven’t had to wait to be seated in most places.

A neighbor where I’m staying has lived in Missouri for much of his life and used to ride. He will be helping me pin down my route through the Ozarks on my return to Seattle.

Day 32

Today started with coffee and then a session of Yoga on the Beach.

I think this was the first time I’ve taken a yoga class outside. Being on the beach was pretty cool. The classes are held at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. The price of the class includes entry into the park for the day (keep your receipt, you’ll need it for re-entry to the park). There is a class everyday, weather permitting. Today’s class was referred to as Yin yoga, consisting of a series of more passive relaxation poses. Yin yoga classes are on Thursday while more energetic classes are held other days of the week.

Breakfast was at Harpoon Harry’s and then I returned to the beach at the Fort to swim. We didn’t go out last night for dinner, instead just socializing with the neighbors and eating in. I went for a short bike ride last night after the sun went down when it was cooler. That was fun.

Gear Update

Back at the house, I did some laundry and looked over my gear to see how it’s holding up. There were a few items that are showing signs of use.

Recall, I purchased Bestem Saddlebag liners from Amazon ($48/pr) and used them for all my trips last year as well as using them for this trip. The waterproof coating on the inside of one of the bags is ripping.

Torn waterproofing inside the Bestem liner
Torn waterproofing inside the Bestem liner

I think this happened because the zipper from my laptop case ( a Case Logic’ sculpted sleeve) rubbed against it, eventually causing a tear. Since the BMW side cases are pretty much watertight, I’m not too worried about the contents of the bag getting wet.

The bigger issue I’m having with the Bestem liners is with the zippers. On each bag, there seems to be one zipper (of the two) doesn’t work well because they can’t get past a certain point. I’ve adapted by using the better functioning zipper for each bag. However, on one of the liners, the zipper pull of the better functioning zipper broke. I honestly can’t recommend these liners because the zippers are not durable.

The BMW tank bag I purchased for last year’s trips is starting rip along one of the seams in front of the lid, or top section.

Tear in the tank bag
Tear in the tank bag

The likely reason for the tear is overloading the bag. 🙁 I brought along some Butler maps and stuffed many of them into the top section’s inside facing pocket. The SLR camera sits along the inside edge under that part of the bag and together with the extra width of the maps, there was too much pressure on the seam.

I’m going to try to avoid overloading the tank bag and get it repaired when I return to Seattle. I will also look at replacing the side case liner bags with a different brand then.

Day 33

It’s Friday, already?

My week-long break between the first half and second half of my trip has been restful and energizing at the same time. Staying in one place has been the biggest contributor to feeling rested, I think. I’m so lucky to have access to a quiet home with great amenities and incredibly friendly and open neighbors. It is nice to not have to go somewhere all the time.

That said, going out to meet new people everyday, visiting local attractions and sharing meals with friends, old and new is recharging my energy levels. One attraction I visited was the Key West Butterfly Conservancy. At first I laughed when my friends suggested visiting, but I’m glad I went. I quickly discovered the experience made me very happy. Immediately after entering the “butterfly living quarters”, I was awed by the hundreds of butterflies and their high levels of activity. There were also some small birds, baby ducklings, Koi, and a pair of flamingos living in the conservatory.

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We also visited the fort at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. Recall this is the park I visited for Yoga on the Beach yesterday (Day 32). The fort looks today to have been built with a mote around it.

Fort Zachary Taylor, Key West
Fort Zachary Taylor, Key West

Actually, the fort was originally surrounded by water. The land now there was brought in later and is now used by the Naval Air Station, as seen from this arial photo (source: wikipedia)

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, Key West (source: wikipedia)
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, Key West (source: wikipedia)

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Our last stop for this morning’s tour was the Key West Cemetery. This is located in Old Town and takes up about 19 acres of land. Wikipedia estimates that as many as 100,000 people are buried here (despite an island population of about 30,000).

Key West Cemetery

Key West Cemetery

Key West Cemetery

Key West Cemetery

There is even a self-guided tour website that lists 51 noteworthy sites.

I attended a theater performance of Venus in Fur at the Red Barn Theatre as well. Andy is the stage manager at the Red Barn and it was fun to see a show and indirectly watch his work.

I went out for a few drinks after the show, visiting some of the Duval Street landmarks and made it home for a late swim in the pool (great way to end an evening).

Day 34

The weather continues to be pleasant. High temperatures are in the mid 80’s and lows in the mid 70’s. Winds are light. I’m getting used to higher temperatures, but still tend to stay out of the direct sun, except when swimming.

I had breakfast in Old Town with two neighbors of my hosts. We went to Blue Heaven. Sandy and I both had the Lobster Benedict with a Lime Hollandaise sauce and Stan had pancakes. It was super good, consistent with its reputation as a must visit Key West restaurant.

Since Stan and Sandy had never visited the Butterfly conservatory despite living here, I took them for a quick visit after telling them how much I enjoyed it. It was nap time after returning to the house as I was up late the night before on Duval Street.

The afternoon was spent relaxing, sometimes out by the pool, a short walk out on the sandy beach with the low tide. Andy brought back burritos in the early evening and afterwards, I took a short bike ride to watch the locals playing Bocce.

Day 35

Sunday morning meant bagels from Goldman’s Bagel Deli in New Town, a part of Key West I haven’t spent much time exploring. Andy, Kai, and I sat at the bar there for breakfast. Recommended if you’re in the area.

Sunday morning also meant opening day at a new T.J. Maxx just down the street from Goldman’s. Kai stopped for a look inside. We then rode our bikes along the shoreline (adjacent to Hwy 1 and Hwy A1A on the map below) past both Stock Island and the Key West International Airport.

Key West, Florida
Key West, Florida

The New Town part of Key West is more developed, with large stores, new hotels and resorts being built, very wide boulevards, faster moving traffic, and few beaches. I prefer Old Town for its history and charm.

All afternoon was spent at the pool, and the sand bar which was accessible with the low tides. Rough life 🙂

Andy and Kai and three other friends of theirs took me to three events to highlight life on Key West. The first was the weekly charity bingo for One Human Family. Mitch was our host.

One Human Family Charity Bingo host Mitch
One Human Family Charity Bingo host Mitch

The closest I came to winning was the last game, where the objective was to fill the card. I was one number away (doh!)

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After bingo, we all went out to dinner at Martin’s. Everybody seemed very happy with the appetizers and their meals. My ribeye was very good. I know it’s Key West but I felt underdressed in shorts and sandles 🙂

The final quintessential Key West event was the Drag Show at Aqua.

Aqua, Key West
Aqua, Key West

It was fun to hang out with the group and experience some Key West traditions.

Today was my last full day in Key West. The weather was mostly sunny with temperatures in the mid 80’s, again 🙂

It was a relaxed day for me. I walked along the beach and spent a little time in the pool both in the morning and then again in the late afternoon. Each time I saw one of the neighbors, I was sure to let them know I was leaving. Saying goodbye to them made the day seem a bit sad.

The afternoon was spent first doing some chores. I decided to send a few things back to Seattle, so I needed to stop at the Post Office to pick up a Flat Rate box. As I rode the bicycle through Old Town, past the Lighthouse and the Ernest Hemingway House, I wondered when I would return to Key West to visit some of the attractions I didn’t see this time.

I returned the rented bicycle next. Then, I arranged for Kai to pick me up at the Old Town Bakery so I could bring some snacks back to the house for after dinner.

Returning to the house, I began to look for places to stay in Ft. Lauderdale, my stop on Tuesday night. I found some motel rooms but then Kai suggested I look at Airbnb. I haven’t checked Airbnb often while traveling. The past times when I did, I was traveling down the West Coast. The results were mostly home rentals, when I really just needed a room.

I am stopping in Fort Lauderdale to visit a friend who I have worked with in my last job, but we’ve never met in person. Eric rides motorcycles and invited me to Florida years ago. We are finally going to meet at his house tomorrow 🙂 He and his wife have other guests staying with them, but this time, using Airbnb, I found a room in a house just a few blocks from Eric’s home for $34 plus a $4 service fee. It was too convenient to not try this service, so I reserved the room. 🙂

There are 28,300 miles on the motorcycle now. It will need another service at 30,000 so I spent some time looking ahead comparing both my route and my destinations to dealer locations. I came up with an option in Asheville, North Carolina and one in Atlanta, Georgia. I would prefer Asheville as I have friends who live 30 miles away and a day off waiting for the service to be completed could be used to visit them.

As it is Monday, I can’t call to schedule appointments until first thing tomorrow morning. Recall I scheduled the last service about four weeks in advance. I’ll only be one week in advance this time, but fingers crossed it works out. I should have figured this out when I first arrived in Key West, but forgot in all the excitement. 🙁

Until tomorrow, when I hit the road again.

Day 37

Day 37 Route

Day’s distance: 200 miles
Total trip distance: 6,502 miles

Today’s weather was mostly sunny with highs of 92 on the road near Miami. Winds were light along the coast and the air was calm inland.

With my Key West stay completed, I returned to the road today. I had a great stay in Key West and can’t express enough my appreciation to my wonderful hosts and long time friends Andy and Kai.

It felt good to be back on the road though I could tell my body had gotten used to laying around the pool rather than sitting on a motorcycle. 🙂

My GPS unit wanted to use the most direct route off the island, but I took the long way around because it had just one stop light and was more scenic.

Goodbye Key West

I had a pleasant trip up the Keys and stopped on Key Largo at The Buzzard’s Roost for lunch. It is located inside a marina and I passed by it the first time. This place was recommended by the Yoga on the Beach instructor, Don, if I remember correctly. Well it was good. I had Tuna Tacos, one of today’s specials. It came with Ahi tuna covered with a Cilantro Wasabe Aioli and seaweed.

Ahi tuna tacos from The Buzzard's Roost, Key West
Ahi tuna tacos from The Buzzard’s Roost, Key West

Oh, I had a slice of Key Lime pie afterwards. I’ve been thinking about Key Lime pie since arriving in Florida. Cindy, my waitress today, says theirs is more custard-like, compared to others that are more like a cheese cake. They are made in house and my slice was quite yummy. Needless to say I recommend stopping here for a meal.

There are two ways off the Keys, Hwy 1 or the the Card Sound Road.

Routes from Key Largo to the mainland
Routes from Key Largo to the mainland

I took Hwy 1 on the way down, but Card Sound Road this time. The speed limits were mostly set at 45 and there was a bicycle lane down much of this route, but there was less traffic and it was a bit less developed.

Card Sound Road, Key West
Card Sound Road, Key West

My destination today was Ft. Lauderdale. I wanted to visit someone I worked with while at my last job. We have spoken over the phone and through email, but never met. He rides and invited me to visit back in December of 2013. Well, today some sixteen months later, I stopped by for a visit. 🙂

It was great to connect in person, share a meal and stories of travel and work and share our other interests. Thanks Eric for a really great visit. That made my day.

I had planned to stay in my first ever Airbnb accommodation tonight and made a reservation to stay in a room at a house just a few block from Eric’s place. From the outside, the house looked like it was in very poor shape. There were holes in the soffits and an old mattress in the backyard.

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When I looked inside, while the room seemed clean and looked just like the picture, the bathroom wasn’t. The host expected people to put their used toilet paper in a waste basket next to the toilet because the toilet would not flush otherwise.

Note on the toilet
Note on the toilet

Next to the toilet there was an open basket of feces-laden toilet paper. I won’t show you that picture.

I didn’t stay another minute. While it took some emailing back and forth, I received a full refund from Airbnb and a $100 coupon good for a year should I want to try again.

I booked a room at a local Motel 6 and am looking forward to sleeping comfortably. Tomorrow I plan to get an early start.

Day 38

Day 38 Route

Day’s distance: 257 miles
Total trip distance: 6,759 miles

Up until about 5pm, the weather was typical of the last week in the Keys. That means mostly sunny, highs on the road up to 90. About 5pm, I encountered storm clouds followed by thunderstorms and a brief downpour.

My objective today was to get an early start and get to Cape Canaveral about noon. The route I chose was I-95 most of the way. Usually, I try to avoid highways while on my trips but the traffic congestion around this part of Florida is pretty bad, so I’m using freeways to get to my destinations.

I did get out of the motel before 8am, topping off the tank and putting air in the tires before getting on the freeway. On my way to the Cape, I detoured to a Starbucks for a latte and one of their sausage egg sandwiches. With one more short break, I arrived at the Cape just after noon.

This was my first visit ever, and folks there suggested I start with a bus tour. Today the buses were taking visitors to the Apollo / Saturn V Center. On our way there, we past by the Vehicle Assembly Building.

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Arriving at the Center, we waited to enter a series of exhibits, each lasting about 10 minutes or so. The first provided some history of the Apollo program.

First Exhibit Room at the Apollo / Saturn V Center
First Exhibit Room at the Apollo / Saturn V Center

The second exhibit used the actual equipment from launch control for Apollo VIII.

Apollo VIII Control Room Exhibit
Apollo VIII Control Room Exhibit
Apollo VIII Control Room Exhibit
Apollo VIII Control Room Exhibit

After the second exhibit, you enter the big hall where there is a Saturn V rocket exhibited horizontally.

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Near the rocket was one of the Apollo Astronaut Vans

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In the same building was a Lunar Presentation and Exhibit

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When I was done, I boarded a bus back to the main visitor’s area. They drop you off at in front of the Atlantis Center. This was another presentation and exhibits combination. Seeing the Atlantis was the highlight, for me.

I decided to watch one IMAX movie and then head to my motel in Daytona Beach.

Storm clouds formed about the time I left.

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When I stopped for gas, I checked my weather radar app and it showed some rain coming.

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I made it part way to Daytona Beach before pulling into a rest area to wait out the storm. It was a good thunderstorm, with lightning, thunder, heavy rain, and winds.

But 30 minutes later, I took off and made it to my hotel in time for a beautiful sunset.

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It was a good day, full of discovery with a side order of rainy adventure. Until tomorrow 🙂

Day 39

Day 39 Route

Day’s distance: 242 miles
Total trip distance: 7,001 miles

The skies were clear and the temperatures reached 96 above the road surface near Savannah, where the reported temperature was 94 when I arrived at 4pm. Winds above Jacksonville were moderate but they were blowing mostly right at me, so the motorcycle wasn’t impacted too much.

I woke up to a beautiful sunrise over Daytona Beach and couldn’t resist another walk along the beach and a dip in the pool afterwards.

Sunrise over Daytona Beach, Florida
Sunrise over Daytona Beach, Florida

Between the walk, the swim, deciding where to stay in Savannah, and packing up my stuff, it was after 10am when I finally made it out of the motel.

The rear tire needed some air, again. I am going to have to keep an eye on it. Recall that back on Mustang Island (near Corpus Christi), I picked up a nail. Perhaps there is a slow leak as I had to put air in that tire just yesterday.

I looked for a latte before leaving town. Starbucks seemed to be the only choice my GPS unit knew about but when I rode past, there was no convenient parking so I ended up getting on the freeway and waiting until a bit later.

My route took me to Savannah directly, which means another day of freeway miles. I don’t enjoy traveling by freeway and will soon be taking more interesting and scenic roads again. The drivers here in Georgia share one annoying trait with those in Florida – they love to pass people on the right 🙁 Despite my late departure from Daytona Beach, I arrived at my hotel by 4pm. I guess there is one advantage to taking the freeways – you can travel quickly between cities.

My neighbor back in Seattle encouraged me to stay in Savannah’s Historic District, and specifically stay at the Planter’s Inn, a restored historic hotel on Reynolds Square. I took her advice and found the hotel to be an excellent choice. It is beautiful from the outside …

Planters Inn, Savanna

and the inside.

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Amenities include a complimentary sunset social hour, consisting of wine and cheese in the hotel’s lobby. I met two former Seattlites, Jan and Doreen, while enjoying my wine. I love being reminded of how small our world seems, sometimes.

The Historic District of Savannah is adjacent to the Savannah River, separating Georgia from South Carolina. I enjoyed a brief walk along the riverfront …

Savannah Riverfront

and along River Street, the old brick street immediately adjacent to the river.

Bohemian Hotel, Savannah Riverfront
Bohemian Hotel, Savannah Riverfront

This part of Savannah is organized around squares, or small parks. Each one is dedicated to a piece of the town’s early history. I plan to take a tour of these squares in the morning before leaving.

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I ate dinner across the street from the hotel at The Olde Pink House, Savannah’s only 18th Century Mansion, downstairs at the bar. This is a great way to meet folks and enjoy a meal while not feeling alone.

Choosing a few appetizers, I had the intention of experiencing some unique southern cooking; including ‘Southern Sushi’, smoked shrimp mixed with grits and rolled in a coconut nori, and Blackened Oysters, served with a watermelon relish and an apricot and pear relish. Both were super good and unexpectedly affordable. Thanks again to my neighbor back in Seattle for the suggestion 🙂

I planned to head to Myrtle Beach from here, but Memorial Weekend begins tomorrow. I’m re-evaluating whether I want to stay on the coast or move inland and find some of those scenic, lesser traveled roads a few days sooner.

Today’s travel was a struggle with the heat, but there is going to be a significant drop in the region’s temperatures beginning tomorrow. That will be nice. Staying in nice hotels, meeting super people, and traveling around for extended vacations, I’m reminded once again that I live a really charmed life.

Day 40

Day 40 Route

Day’s distance: 381 miles
Total trip distance: 7,382 mile

It was mostly cloudy in the morning and mostly sunny in the afternoon. Despite the sun, the temperature was about 15 to 20 degrees cooler than the prior day – a welcome relief.

As mentioned in my prior post, I changed my travel plans to avoid Myrtle Beach over the long weekend. Instead, I decided to head up to the Mt. Airy area early.

Trivia: Did you know that Andy Griffith, of Mayberry fame, was born in Mt. Airy? I didn’t, at least not until I pulled into a gas station there and saw a rack of ‘Beyond Mayberry: A Memoir of Andy Griffith and Mount Airy North Carolina’ books in paperback and looked up Andy’s history on wikipedia, confirming his birthplace.

Deciding to travel almost 400 miles and not leaving town until after 10am, I felt a bit of pressure to make some miles. Despite the GPS estimating the trip to take six hours, I knew it would take at least eight, including stops for fuel and food.

My route took me across three state lines but the interstates weren’t particularly scenic until reaching Virginia and beginning the climb into the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Before arriving at the campground, I stopped at a roadside food trailer (shack?) for dinner. I had picked up a few more Mountain House (dehydrated) meals for use, but anytime I can try local food, I usually do so.

Food stop near Mt. Airy
Food stop near Mt. Airy

The campground I chose is a motorcycle-only camp, and this was going to be my first experience at such a camp. I arrived a little after 7pm and set up camp in the field along with the twenty or so others.

Willville Campground - motorcycles only
Willville Campground – motorcycles only

Every night, there is a campfire where most of the campers gather. I found the other riders friendly and open at tonight’s campfire. I look forward to some local area rides and at least one more night here.

Day 41

Day 41 Route (morning)
Route (morning)

Day’s distance: 86 miles (approx)
Total trip distance: 7,448 miles

The weather was cool in the morning, maybe the low 50’s, but it was ideal in the afternoon with temperatures in the mid 70’s and the skies mostly sunny.

I woke up about 6am and took a shower before having coffee in one of the outdoor covered gathering places in Willville. I met several other riders the night before and went to breakfast with one of them, Fritz. We went to the Meadows of Dan Community Center that was putting on an all-you-can-eat breakfast.

Meadows of Dan Community Center Breakfast[
Meadows of Dan Community Center Breakfast[

After breakfast, we returned to the camp. I was socializing with North Carolina residents Dwayne and Susan, who also arrived at camp the prior night. Their Goldwing 1800 tows a trailer that folds out to cover approximately 100 sq ft. They called it the Tajma-trailer.

They also set up an additional cover. They are totally ready for inclement weather.

The Tajma-trailer
The Tajma-trailer

Anyway, they invited me to have a second breakfast. I joined them and enjoyed grits, biscuits and gravy, fresh OJ, and some (more) eggs.

Word was spread that there was a chili cook-off in Floyd and since it was after noon, Fritz and I decided to head up there. We first headed to the Honduras Coffee Roasters and Cafe in Stuart for a latte.

Honduras Coffee Roasters and Cafe, Stuart VA
Honduras Coffee Roasters and Cafe, Stuart VA

Good coffee and the treats looked good, but since I had eaten two breakfasts already, I didn’t try one.

After our coffee, we took Hwy 8 to Floyd. It turned out the Chili Cook Off was the prior day, so we walked around a bit, stopping first at an open market …

Open Market in Floyd, VA
Open Market in Floyd, VA

Floyd has a reputation of being a bit of a hippy haven, a liberal town with strong sense of community. They are also supporters of authentic Appalachian music, with several music venues, including the Floyd Country Store …

Floyd Country Store

They had a live blue grass band playing this afternoon.

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We grabbed lunch at the Oddfella’s Cantina. I had a burger that was really good.

The two of us rode back to camp via the Blue Ridge Parkway to Hwy 58. The afternoon passed by quickly with lots of motorcycle-related conversations. Soon it was dinner time. This day seemed to be all about eating. We grabbed dinner nearby at the Crooked Road Cafe and by the time we returned, it was almost dark.

Soon it was time for the nightly campfire. When I camp alone, I never have a fire. It is really nice to have a communal fire where campers gather to sway tall tales. 🙂

Someone who shall not be named was sharing a bit of local moonshine. It was flavored by fresh peaches and aged for about a year. Surprisingly smooth, it was a great nightcap.

Day 42

Day 42 Route (to breakfast only)
Route (to breakfast only)

Day’s distance: 126 miles (approx)
Total trip distance: 7,594 miles

Last night was warmer than the prior night, very comfortable in the tent. Today’s highs were in the mid 70’s, and the skies mostly sunny. Winds were light. It was a perfect day for motorcycling.

I rode to breakfast with Fritz, David, and Hank, a friend of theirs who showed up at the camp this morning.

Off to breakfast

Everyone was headed to Tuggles Gap to meet up with the Twin Valley Riders club. The club meets for breakfast at Tuggles Gap Restaurant on the fourth Sunday of odd numbered months.

Tuggles Gap Breakfast with the Twin Valley Riders
Tuggles Gap Breakfast with the Twin Valley Riders

I sat with Cliff and Michael and had a great breakfast. Michael has lived in Seattle (small world). He’s a writer and motorcycle enthusiast.

After breakfast, Michael and I rode together for about an hour before he continued home and I headed back to camp. I didn’t keep track of the roads we took, only that they were twisty and challenging. I rode more slowly than Michael, so he waited at intersections for me to catch up.

It’s important when riding with groups or just a new person to ride your own ride. Put a plan in place to accommodate differences in skill and preferences in riding style.

I took a few short rides by myself, one into Stuart for lunch and a late afternoon ride along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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I stopped at The Saddle overlook …

The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway
The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway
The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway
The Saddle Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway

and again at Mabry Mill.

Mabry Mill, Blue Ridge Parkway
Mabry Mill, Blue Ridge Parkway

That is the Blue Ridge Parkway in the picture above, adjacent to the mill. In the section I rode today, the parkway feels narrow because there is not a useful shoulder, but the pavement is in very good shape.

I’m looking forward to traveling more of the Parkway tomorrow. Having a few days to adjust to the narrow and windy roads here in Virginia was useful. I will have to consider adding extra time onto a trip if switching from primarily interstqte usage to rural roads.

Day 43

Day 43 Route

Day’s distance: 266 miles
Total trip distance: 7,860 miles

The day was close to ideal, with temperatures in the mid 70’s and the skies partly cloudy.

I left Willville this morning at 7am and I will miss this campground and the other riders I met here over the last three days. 🙁  This place is highly recommended if you’re in the area and the weather is appropriate for camping.

I spent most of the day on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Originally called the Appalachian Scenic Highway, according to a wikipedia article, the two lane road is in overall great shape with largely gentle twists and turns. The speed limit along most of the parkway is 45mph and fines are reportedly steep for speeding, so I just settled in a took my time.

There was little traffic until later in the day as I approached Asheville. As it was Memorial Day, I was surprised and delighted and really enjoyed this most scenic roadway.

Below is a slide show of my favorite photos from the day.

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I used I-40 to get to Waynesville from the Parkway. It was already past 3pm and since I’d be in the area only one day, I wanted to spend a few extra hours with my friends than more time today on the Parkway.

Former Seattle neighbors live in Waynesville and agreed to put me up for the night. It had been about six years since they’ve lived in Seattle and they recently purchased this house. I deeply appreciated the comfort of the bed after camping for three days straight, the longest stretch of camping I’ve done on any motorcycle trip.

We ate dinner in town at The Sweet Onion. I had a delicious steak and some nice wine. Thanks to my hosts for treating 🙂

The weather is predicted to turn rainy tomorrow. Let’s hope for the best.

Day 44

Day 44 Route

Day’s distance: 138 miles
Total trip distance: 7,998 miles

The weather varied today. It was raining lightly when I left this morning. At higher elevations, it was very foggy. About noon, the rain had stopped and the sun began to shine through the clouds. Late in the day a light rain started once again. Temperatures reached 88 but cooled off in the early evening when the rain returned.

Today, I was on my way to one of the country’s notable motorcycling roads, the Tail of the Dragon. Because the weather was predicted to be less than ideal, I shortened my tentative route and put off the Cherohala Skyway ride until tomorrow.

I left the house about 8am and stopped to put air in the tires and gas and oil in the bike. With everything set, I left Waynesville and returned to the western-most section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Just like yesterday, the parkway was beautiful with scenic overlooks, only today it was too cloudy and foggy to see much.

Just the start of the fog on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Just the start of the fog on the Blue Ridge Parkway

There was little traffic on the Parkway, and when I saw two motorcycles pass me coming the other way with their hazard lights on, I thought that was a great idea since I was only going 25 or so in the worst spots, which seemed to be the elevations about about 4700 feet.

Many of the roads follow local rivers, such as this scenic pull out.

Blue Ridge Parkway, NC
Blue Ridge Parkway, NC

As I reached the end of the Parkway and the entrance to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, I detoured into Cherokee for a latte. The Cherokee Coffee Shop had really excellent coffee and treats. They roast the beans themselves, several times a week, and the results might just be heaven. A definite stop if you’re in the area.

I worked on catching up with the blog while drinking coffee. It was well past noon by the time I was back on the bike. Then another BMW rider flagged me down and wanted to ask about my GoPro mounts. We compared notes about a number of things until about 1pm. I was glad for two things: my day’s route was shortened and the weather was dry and much nicer than expected.

I crossed into Tennessee while riding Hwy 441. At this point, it was quite breezy and the fog had returned. Of course, there is an obligatory bike photo 🙂

Hwy 441 Smokey Mountains
Hwy 441 Smokey Mountains

The Tail of the Dragon begins in North Carolina and ends in Tennessee. I would be riding it the other way and took the opportunity before entering Townsend, TN to stop watch the folks tubing down the Little River and to soak my shirt in the cool water. It was getting a bit hot by then and humid. I think it was 86 degrees or so.

Along both the Blue Ridge and Smokey Mountains, my cell coverage with AT&T has been very spotty. But during lunch I made a quick call back to Seattle. It was good to catch up with events back home.

Entering the Foothills Parkway,

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I would ride the ridge between the Smokey Mountains to the east …

Foothills Parkway looking east

and the Tennessee River Valley to the west.

Foothills Parkway looking west

The time finally arrived. I have been looking forward to riding the Tail for a while and I was grateful the surface of the road was dry and that it wasn’t a weekend when the road is full of bikers who go much faster than I can on an unfamiliar road.

The Tail of the Dragon has a reported 318 turns in just 11 miles. I’ve ridden twisty roads – many of them – but this road has what I believe to be the most concentrated set of curves I’ve ever ridden. Here’s a short video of a few of those curves.

A very fun event occurred as I was about half way through the Dragon. The odometer turned 30,000 miles!

Turning 30 (K) on the Tail of the Dragon!
Turning 30 (K) on the Tail of the Dragon!

Deal’s Gap is a motel, gas station, and gathering place at the start of the Dragon.

Deal's Gap, NC
Deal’s Gap, NC

Arriving at Deal’s Gap, I was told I had to visit the Tree of Shame. If you wreck while riding the Dragon, it is custom to hang something on the tree. You’ll see x-rays, fenders, etc. on it.

The Tree of Shame, Deal's Gap, NC
The Tree of Shame, Deal’s Gap, NC

I noticed after the ride that over time I’m using more of the usable surface of the tire. Bikers would say that my ‘Chicken Strips’ are getting narrower. I’m a conservative rider, as you can tell, but at least the rubber ‘hairs’ are no longer there 🙂

Examining my 'Chicken Strips
Examining my ‘Chicken Strips

I left Deal’s Gap tentatively headed for Robbinsville to stay the night, but ended up stopping for a cold drink at the Pit Stop, part of the Fontana Lodge. It began to rain and I decided to stay here for the night. The Lodge has two pools and a lazy river and two restaurant on premises. I used the pool and lazy river, then went to the Bistro for dinner.

While being seated, I noticed there was only one other table occupied and they were talking about the Dragon. I introduced myself and ended up eating with them, telling tales of motorcycling and sharing information about routes. I love the motorcycling community and am lucky to be able to spend time with folks like Butch, Cody, Karen, and Viann.

There was a nice sunset tonight.

Smokey Mountains sunset
Smokey Mountains sunset

Tomorrow I plan to ride the Cherohala Skyway before detouring to Marietta for Thursday service appointment with BMW of Atlanta.

Day 45

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Day’s distance: 199 miles
Total trip distance: 8,197 miles

Again, the weather was very nice and much better than expected. High temperatures reached the low 80’s and the skies were partly cloudy to mostly cloudy later in the day.

I didn’t have far to travel today, so I did some laundry in the morning while still at the Fontana Village Resort. Finished with that, I departed the lodge about 11am, headed for Robbinsville and the Cherohala Skyway.

The Fontana Village is quite extensive and includes a marina at Fontana Lake. It seemed quite a scenic area and the resort was full of amenities, including a frisbee golf course. Frisbee golf takes me back to my graduate school days. 😉

Fontana Lake, NC
Fontana Lake, NC
Fontana Lake, NC
Fontana Lake, NC

Today’s goal was to ride the Cherohala Skyway, starting in North Carolina and finishing in Tennessee.

Cherohala Skyway, NC
Cherohala Skyway, NC

The two-lane road was in very good shape, with a speed limit of 45mph in most places. The twists and turns of Cherohala weren’t as concentrated as on the Tail of the Dragon, but the speed limit was higher and the scenery was more expansive as the Skyway runs partly on top of the local mountain ridges.

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As the Skyway approaches Tellico Plains, it follows a river and reminded me of Hwy 12 in Idaho.

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I stopped at the Tellico Kat’s Deli for a sandwich and some coffee. I sat out back on the porch that overlooks the river, enjoying the tranquility and winding down after traveling the Skyway.

Tellico Kat's Deli, Tellico Plains, TN
Tellico Kat’s Deli, Tellico Plains, TN

Most of the rest of the day was spent traveling from Tellico Plains to Marietta where I stayed the night. The motel was about 3 miles north of the dealer that was going to perform my 30,000 miles service the next morning. The roads I took were a mixture of smaller highways congested with local traffic to some interstates which were less interesting but moved quickly. I guess sometimes you take the good with the bad.

Until tomorrow !!

Day 46

Day 46 Route

Day’s distance: 156 miles
Total trip distance: 8,353 miles

The weather consisted of periodic rainstorms throughout the day, with temperatures in the low 70’s to 80 when not raining.

My first stop and main goal today was to get the motorcycle serviced at BMW of Atlanta. The bike requires service every 6,000 miles and this was the second service stop of the tour. Except for needing a new set of tires, the bike should be good until I get back to Seattle. Although my last set of tires lasted more than 13,000 miles, the bike was fully loaded for only about half of those miles. I will play it by ear, but likely stop in Denver to pick those up.

The folks at BMW of Atlanta took great care of me and the bike. Everyone working at this family-owned dealership was cordial and the bike seemed to purr after the service. Definitely two thumbs up!!

Since I only had to travel a short distance today, I was open to the suggestions provided by the folks I met at the dealership. I planned a lunch at a nearby Jim N’ Nicks BBQ followed by a short but twisty ride down a local road named Raccoon Creek Road.

The driest part of the whole day was spent waiting for the bike to get serviced. The afternoon was spent ducking the worst of the multiple rainstorms that came through the area. I made it to my lunch stop, but not before the first afternoon thunderstorm started.

Lunch stop during rain storm