Arctic Adventures, Part 3

*2019: This is the last episode of #ThrowBackTravel to be pulled over from our old website. There may be more throwback stories as I have time to compile old ride reports and pictures, but they won’t be coming as fast and furious like they have been. So don’t just wolf it down. Sit back, pour a drink, savor it… And off we go!

Crossing on the Yukon River Ferry. Yes, that’s us in a car. A rental car, to be precise. Three of our four tires were destroyed, beyond repair. The closest tires we found were 8 hours away in Fairbanks, Alaska – a far cry better than the 8 DAYS it would take to have tires shipped to us in the Yukon. The trade off for time was price – this car only came with 100 free kilometers (about 60 miles). When our little trip was complete, 25 1/2 hours and 1,407 kilometers later, they hit us for almost $600. Talk about painful…

Alaska was having a little wildfire problem of their own, although thankfully farther from the road. You’d think that a place that spent half the year covered in snow and the other half of the year slogging around in melted snow would be low on fire danger, but that’s clearly not the case.

The view from the Top of the World Highway was impressive, but not quite as impressive as the Dempster.  This road was also dirt, and better maintained than the Dempster, but we have to admit that if we had to be on it, at least it wasn’t on the bikes. We’ve done enough dirt riding on street bikes to last us a while.

Entering Alaska for the second time. We look happy because we think our troubles are over. We’re so gullible.

OK, the sights WERE pretty, and the faux sunset WAS spectacular, but still… It wasn’t $600 worth of spectacular.

WOW! OK, this was also pretty amazing. We also got a chance to actually talk, which we can’t do on the bikes. I guess it wasn’t so bad, but still…  $600?

We left Dawson City at 5pm and arrived in Fairbanks at 3am. We couldn’t find a campground or a reasonably priced hotel with a vacancy, so we did what any completely insane person would do – we slept in the parking lot of the motorcycle shop. Mike slept in the driver’s seat, and I slept with the rear seat down, half in the trunk and half on the seat. Not a real restful night sleep since it didn’t get dark, but you gotta do what you gotta do.


We finally got a picture of a moosey moosey moose!

I’ll make a long story short. When the motorcycle shop opened and we asked for our tires (which we had ordered and paid for by phone last night), they just shrugged their shoulders. It took over an hour and a half for them to figure out what had happened: They charged us for the three tires we needed, then someone else came in and wanted to buy one of them. Knowing we were driving all night from the Yukon to get these tires, they credited us back for one and sold it to someone else. They didn’t call to inform us, didn’t apologize, and didn’t want to give us our third tire back. Call us if you want all the sordid details, but lets just say that in the end, the cops were called and we left the shop with three tires.

*2019: OK, we’ve dragged this out for 14 years. For those of you who haven’t heard the whole animated, curse-filled tale in person, here’s a little more story. There was a lady working at the parts counter who had some serious attitude. I get it, we’re foreigners, but we came in with a pleasant attitude (or as pleasant as could be expected, considering we’d just slept in their parking lot) and just wanted to retrieve our paid-for tires and hit the road. If I had to guess, having 14 more years of powersports customer service under my belt since that glorious day, she was probably the one who sold our tire out from under us. She probably gambled that we wouldn’t make it, and figured that cash-in-hand from a local buyer was better than a refunded credit card charge a few days down the road. She lost that gamble, and rather than roll it back she decided to double down.

“May we speak with the parts manager?”

“I am the parts manager.”

“Who is your manager?”

“I’m the top of the food chain today. So sad for you.”

The only thing the shop offered was to give us the two tires that were still on our invoice. Fantastic! A $600 rental car later, that would get us fully 2/3 of the way to mobile! Sigh. An hour and a half of nasty looks and snide remarks later, a mechanic innocently walks in from the back and says “I found that other tire you were looking for.” He was immediately incinerated with the vicious laser-gaze from the Parts Manager Lady.

Apparently the sequence of events were as follows: We purchased the three tires over the phone. I called from the road about half way to Fairbanks and confirmed that our tires were there, paid for, and that we would be arriving to pick them up the following morning. A few hours later, a local rode in and asked for one of those tires. Not having any more to sell him, they credited us for one and sold it to him. He left his bike to have the tire installed… And there it sat. The tire had yet to be installed, but when we asked for the tire (which was, by any measure, rightfully ours) so we could be on our merry way, Parts Lady said she couldn’t sell it to us because it was already sold to someone else. Aaaaaahhhhmmmm,…. Okaaaaay,… buuuuuttt,…. I also have a receipt showing that I paid for three tires, including that one right there. Does it need to be resold a certain number of times before it gets locked in to a particular owner or something? Or is that a determination made based on the zip code of the purchaser? What exactly do we need to do to leave here with those three tires?

We did not go to extreme lengths to hide our discontent with the situation, but we never got loud or made threats. We did, however, make it clear that we would not be leaving with fewer than three tires. And why would we? We’d ordered three, paid for three, and needed three to get on with our trip. We weren’t about to pay for the World’s Most Expensive Tire Change ®, only to have to return to Dawson City and wait for over a week in order to arrange for a single additional tire to be flown in. Not happening. Parts Lady, or somebody in the shop, apparently tired of our presence and called in the fuzz. They were pretty cool about the whole thing, just standing by to make sure we didn’t try any funny business. Eventually the tables started to turn and the other shop employees started to more vocally support our position. I think the fact that we were polite(ish) but persistent really helped sway sentiment in our favor. While Parts Lady held firm, other employees started loudly telling her that, basically, she was being a jerk. They got pretty persistent on our behalf, pointing our the obvious fact that the tire was ours to begin with, Number Three hadn’t been installed yet, and that the ride-in was in a better position to wait for another tire to arrive.

I think, ultimately, everyone just grew tired of the “locals back locals” thing when it came to backing up her clearly indefensible position. It was ridiculous and everyone could see that. Everyone – the cops, the other employees, even customers that were lingering around to take in the show – were chatting with Part Lady while giving us the side-eye that said “Yeah, I get it.” We reached a point where the cops were probably tired of hanging out but Parts Lady needed to save face, so she stepped out for some reason and another parts guy thankfully gave us our rightful Number Three. In retrospect, and even really at the time, we weren’t angry with the shop, it was just one person on a power trip who made a series of increasingly poor business decisions. But I’ve said it before: It’s the spectacularly good things and the spectacularly bad things that really stick in your mind after a trip, and no matter how this panned out it was going to be a memorable event.

By the time the bike shop dimwits were done screwing around, it was too late for us to get the rental car back in time. There’s an extra fee for that. The rental place also runs the only taxi service in town, and since they were closed by the time we got back, we had no way to make it the 25km to where we left our bikes. Sigh…

When we finally made it back to the Klondike Lodge, they were closed. We shared our sob story with the mechanic there, trying to sway him into opening up the shop so we could install our new tires. It didn’t work. Instead, he bought us dinner and a night in the lodge. Praise the Lord, there are some good people left in the world!! We were filthy, exhausted, and STARVING – we hadn’t had time to stop for food since we left Fairbanks. We ate like pigs and slept like babies, clean, dry, and happy for the first time in days.

Our Heros! Richard, the mechanic at the Klondike Lodge, and his assistant Brandon. When all was said and done, they didn’t charge us a cent and refused a tip. (We left one anyways.)

We didn’t get good pictures of the slices in the tires, because we intended to cut out the worst chunks and save them as souvenirs. We forgot. You can see how bald the top tire is – that was Mike’s front. The middle one is my rear tire, and it has five big slits in it (the largest was almost 2″ long). The bottom one is Mike’s rear, and if you look at the bottom of the picture just left of center you can see one of the many places where his steel belts were showing through. Believe it or not, these tires were new when we left California, and should have lasted us at least 5,000 more miles.

All this struggle faded into distant memory when we made it to Mukluk Annie’s in time for the all-you-can-eat breakfast a few days later. The whole buffet was good, but those were the best blueberry pancakes we had ever eaten. Look at that – it’s flopping off the edge of the plate!! Judging by the look on Mike’s face, Gnomad picked the wrong place to kick back…

Overlooking Teslin, Yukon. If you look at the far side of the bridge, then nine more miles up the road, you’ll see Mukluk Annies. Mmmmmm…. pancakes….

This was going to just be a short rest stop in Watson Lake, Yukon. A sign forest is a good excuse to take a break, but we figured is would be kind of geeky. Saying so might confirm our geekdome, but it was actually a lot of fun!

We were just going to stretch our legs and pop in for a quick look. With over 60,000 signs, I don’t think there’s such a thing as “a quick look.” These are all thumbnails. Click on a few, and I’m sure you’ll see what we saw – There’s a lot of really funny stuff in here!

We saw lots and lots of wildlife, but this herd of buffalo was probably the closest. We saw caribou today, too, but they cleared out before we could snap a picture. I think they sensed that we had eaten a Caribou Burger a couple days before. (Incidentally, it was VERY tasty, and I highly recommend trying it if you get the chance.) This big herd was standing right next to the road, completely ignoring us. Mike was sitting right next to me, completely ignoring them. (I guess you become immune to the cuteness of big, smelly, hairy animals when you grow up in South Dakota, but not me! I’m married to one!)

Muncho Lake, British Columbia. This lake was just as still as Boya Lake, but the water was a deep turquoise. It also made for beautiful pictures, and I’m sure sunset is truly a sight to behold. Maybe on the next trip…

This big fella was standing right in the middle of the road (which had again turned to dirt, but nowhere near as bad as the Dempster). He and his kin folk like to eat the seeds and things that are easy pickin’s on the road, and they really don’t care how many people honk at them while they do it.

A little bit of rain, but hey – it’s no big thing.
A thousand miles of dirt road tends to toughen you up a little bit.

Look! A bear!

Seriously. Here’s the story: For the second time on our trip, we saw a black bear cruising around next to the road. Another car had also stopped to take pictures, but we weren’t fast enough – he slipped back into the woods before we got the picture. I hollered back to Mike in my best redneck drawl, “Hey, Baby! Ya’ll want me to run into them woods and flush ‘im out sos you can git yer picture?” The guy in the car looked simultaneously disturbed, repulsed, and almost… hopeful. I don’t think I’d laughed as hard since we saw the giant mutant hopping beaver by Boya Lake.

Camping in Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington.

I like these two pictures. The one to the right is me at a stop sign on Mount Rainier on the way back from our honeymoon, and the picture on the left is me at the same intersection in June 2004 as I returned from a solo trip around the U.S. and Canada. Check out all that snow!! What a difference a year and a month makes!

Fellow bikers riding through Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington.

We like to call this little series, “Why throwing your luggage off a third story hotel balcony to someone waiting in the parking lot may not be as good an idea as it first seems.” Don’t worry, ladies and gentlemen – he’s a trained professional. He limped away with only minor injuries.

The Tilamook Cheese Factory. This was one of our favorite stops.
We were like kids in a… well,… A Cheese Factory.

I know we’ve said this before, but this time I mean it – this may actually be the absolute best picture we took on our entire trip. I mean, really. It’s hard to go wrong with Sumike vs. Wenzilla.

After a few days unwinding in San Francisco, we finally made the last short hop home to Pismo Beach. It was bittersweet; once you’re that close to home, it’s always nice to sleep in your own bed, scritch your own dog and wear some clean clothes. Especially if you’re Mike. Me, on the other hand – I told Mike I was going to keep on going to Tierra del Fuego. He wished me Godspeed and said he would send me text messages with the weather reports from his Official Command Post on the couch in front of the TV, as long as I didn’t expect updates before 11am. OK, I agreed to pass on Tierra del Fuego for now, but not for long. My goal was to ride to Inuvik before I turned 30. By the time I’m 40, I vow to have Tierra del Fuego securely under my belt.* And between now and then… Who knows? When adventure calls, I listen!

Thank you so much to everyone who supported us through our trip and shared in our adventure with us. Creating this website is very time consuming and we just didn’t have time or space for everything we would have liked to include. Like the huge Hell’s Angels raid in Inuvik. Or when we had to backtrack a hundred miles because Mike left his wallet in Hyder. Or standing up to a bully backwater cop trying to give us unearned citations. Or precise details on the giant mutant hopping beaver. Thanks to everyone who has pumped us for information on these neglected tales, and everyone who has emailed us with their own stories of adventure. Because of all of you, our journey will never really come to an end.

*2019 Post Script: OK, “not for long” actually became “too long”, but I’ve only missed my goal by a couple years. That’s tolerable; the interceding adventures have been beyond all expectations, not the least of which is this adorable little adventure right here. Like I said, I hope to start putting together some new #ThrowBackTravels on adventures like our Nova Scotia trip or the time a stranger broke into a motorcycle shop for me. Long story. Maybe I’ll write about it someday. 😉 In the meantime, follow along with Third Wheel Adventures to see what happens next!

Arctic Adventure, Part 2

Here’s where the real fun begins! We rode for nearly 18  hours on the first day of the Dempster. It sounds impressive, but with the road conditions we only averaged about 25 mph (when we were moving). It was slow and tiring, but amazingly beautiful. We must have stopped for pictures about every 10 minutes! (By the way, that’s not a painted center line in the picture below; that’s the tire ruts worn in the dirt road.)

We thought these were snow-covered mountains when we saw them from a distance, but they’re not. They’re actually light gray, nearly white, perfectly smooth stone mounds. Very cool!

It was 7:30pm before we made it to the Arctic Circle, but since it was still light we kept on riding. Accommodations are VERY limited up here, so when you decide to keep going that usually means at least 4 hours to the next campground…

Did I mention there are only two gas stations on the Dempster? Better plan ahead…

One of my favorite pictures from the trip. A fire was actively burning near the road during our travels, and in this section it had burned one half of the road but not the other.

Milestone: Arctic Circle! KM 405, 12 hours of riding
Milestone: Northwest Territories! KM 465, 13.5 hours of riding
You are getting veeery sleeeepy…

It may look well-groomed, but that is actually about 8″ deep of razor-sharp shale. Take my word for it, it does not make the ol’ tires happy…

Nature’s cruel and beautiful joke:
The sun isn’t actually setting, it’s just hanging out in the trees for a while.
OOooh, look! That must be a sunset, right?

Not quite. This is what it looked like when we stopped for the night (well after midnight) at Nitainlaii Territorial Park. The mosquitoes were so thick here that it actually sounded like it was raining all night as they tried to get in the tent. Note Mike applying 100% DEET – didn’t even phase ’em. It  was kinda like being in an Alfred Hitchcock movie…

Day Two on the Dempster was a much shorter day, thanks to a marathon ride on Day One. We needed it, too, because 736 kilometers of dirt road by motorcycle really takes a lot out of you!

Waiting for the Mackenzie River ferry at the fishing village of Tsiigehtchic (say THAT three times fast!) An exceptional summer thaw left the river banks littered with logs and debris several hundred feet from the river. The Mackenzie River is massive – it drains 1/5 of Canada, and only the  Mississippi and Amazon exceed it’s flow.

Crossing the Mackenzie River. The weather is notoriously unpredictable in  this area, but we had managed to skirt the storm clouds yesterday.  Today we were not so lucky. As soon as we disembarked the ferry, the sky unleashed a cold, pelting rain that would last for the next day and a half.

Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada, KM 736 of the Dempster Highway. Finally, the end of the road! This is the northern-most point in Canada that can be reached by roads* (unless you count ice roads, but we’re saving that for the next road trip). (Just kidding.) We only saw a few dozen other vehicles over the last two days, and only three motorcycles. We only saw five other motorcycle on our entire drive on the Dempster. We are one of a crazy… er,… brave few.

*2019 Addendum: As of November 2017, a new road opened which allows travel north beyong Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Ocean. Road trip!

We had heard horror stories about how the road destroys tires, so we came prepared with enough plug kits and CO2 cartridges to repair a couple dozen punctures. We felt lucky to have made it all the way to Inuvik before getting the first flat on Wendy’s rear tire. It took us a few hours to find air (so we didn’t have to waste our cartridges) and repair the tire, but all in all we thought we got off pretty easy…

Windburn, anyone?

Dust, dirt, gravel, and rain combined to make a thick impervious paste on the faceshields of the helmets (and our bikes, and our gear, and every other exposed surface). In order to see, we had to ride with our faceshields up. This meant being buffeted in the face by wind and cold rain for the last 128 kilometers (over 75 miles) of the road. Our faces were chapped like we’d been skiing for a few weeks, but hey – that’s the price you pay for  adventure.

Today was our first – and hard-earned – full day of rest. We stayed in a hotel for only the second time on our trip, and this one was pretty fancy. They didn’t even seem to mind the massive cloud of filth we brought in with us. We had hot showers, a comfy bed, and Internet access! Talk about spoiled! We spent most of the day lounging and staying out of the rain, but we did manage to wander out and snap a few pictures for your enjoyment. Inuvik has a paved road – our first one in two days – but most of them are still dirt. The 
nearly 4,000 residents live in these raised row houses with above-ground sewage lines to prevent freezing in the winter. Yummy! (You can see the lines in the postcard above.)

A little break in the rain convinced us to do a little exploring 
around town. This is the famous Inuvik Igloo Church. It was all hand-built without blueprints. We’ve seen pictures of the inside and it looks gorgeous, but it wasn’t open to visitors when we stopped by.

This is a common “trademark” statue of the native Inuits of the Mackenzie Delta. They were used to mark the coastline of the delta rivers and the Arctic Ocean. Travelers and fisherman used them as reference points and they navigated the surrounding waters.

This is probably tied for our favorite picture from our trip. As you can imagine, Inuvik is a very small town. The main store in town in the NorthMart, which is kind of like a WalMart. Unlike WalMart, the NorthMart is counted on to carry absolutely everything and anything that the townsfolk may need, including off-road vehicles. We were surprised to walk in the door and see three quads – one with an outboard motor on it – but when was the last time you saw a Honda CRF50 on a men’s underwear display? This has truly been a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Day Four was off to a great start. We certainly weren’t as apprehensive about the road as we had been on the way up, but we weren’t nearly as excited, either, because we knew what we were in for. We were up and ready for an early departure, and we walked outside to find that my rear tire had gone flat again. Oh, goody. Rather than chance a slow leak, we decided to track down a shop where we could repair the tire properly… Whew! Glad we won’t have to do that again! (Ha Ha) None of the shops in town handled motorcycles tires, but the owner of this shop was kind enough to let me use his machine so I could do the work myself. Nothing wakes you up like a little grease in the morning!

Back on the Mackenzie River Ferry. We hit the road about 5 hours later than we intended, but we were confident we made the right choice. After all, we don’t want to spend the entire rest of our ride dealing with flats, right?

This shot kind of gives you an idea of how slow mike is – I’m that speck waaaay off in the distance. (OK, he’s not usually quite THAT slow…) You if look closely, though, you can see the razor-sharp shale laughing at us from the roadway.

We made it almost to Eagle Lodge, the half-way point of the Dempster Highway, before Flatty reared it’s ugly head once more. All of our plug kits were useless, though, because these weren’t punctures – these were big ol’ slits. We managed to cram enough sticky strips in there to hold a little air, and I made it to the lodge’s tire repair shop just as it officially reached “Completely Flat”. Once again I had to do all the work, but no matter – we want it fixed right so we don’t have to deal with any more flats. Right?

Remember that fire I mentioned earlier? Not only was it still going strong, it was now frighteningly close to Eagle Plains. It was already 9pm so we really should have called it a night, but we were worried about where the fire would go. We decided to push on for Engineer Creek about 100 miles to the south, and it turns out we made the right choice: Just hours after we passed through, the fire overtook the road and it was closed off just south of Eagle Plains.

This is the scene from the road at about 10:30pm. The fire makes it look like a sunset, which it rightfully should have been long before 10:30pm, but it wasn’t because the sun doesn’t set, but it kind of was because it was covered by smoke. See? Or maybe that’s just the extreme exhaustion talking – We didn’t reach the next campground until 1:30am.

Good News! When we reached the campground, it was completely full. On a Tuesday. At 1:30am. The same campground that was completely empty the previous Friday. The next campground is 80 miles south, so that’s not an option.

Now Day Five of the Dempster was off to a bad start, that much was true, but if you had told me that my day would end sleeping in the trunk of a car in Fairbanks, Alaska, I still would have called you nuts. Boy, would I have been eating my words…

Luckily there was this picnic shelter with a potbellied stove, tables, and fully screened to keep the bugs out. This is actually pretty luxurious – why hadn’t we thought of this before? Probably because the rangers are likely to wake you up and make you move out in the middle of the night, but hey – desperate times call for desperate measures.

And what’s this? We woke up to find yet another flat tire! By my count, this makes four flats so far. Are we done yet? Haven’t we paid our dues? To make matters worse, we had used up all our CO2 cartridges on the last flat. We had a backup plan – a hose that screws in to your spark plug hole so your engine acts as a air compressor. It does the job, but it takes a LOT of work to get at our spark plugs. Well, better get started.

…And just look how excited Mike is about it! Boy, by that long face, you’d think HE was the one doing all the work! More than the work, the dirt road was very draining and we were ready to be back on the pavement. (Or, as I was singing, “On A Road Again”) We were about half way to our spark plugs when, from across the camp, we heard the tell-tale droning of an air compressor. We’re saved! They let us borrow it, and it cut our labor in half. That cigarette lighter charger we installed in Mike’s bike really came in handy today!! A few more sticky strips and a quick fill, and we were heading for the highway.

Alas, the excitement did not last. We were less than a third of the way to pavement when Mike caught up and asked how his rear looked. I said “Flat”. He clarified that he meant his rear tire, but unfortunately the answer was still “flat.” Upon inspection we found that my rear tire had also gone flat again, bringing us to a total of six flats.

We started work to remove the spark plugs, and we found that we didn’t have all the tools we needed to get at them.  (Now before you give me a hard time, we had the right SIZE tools, but the bolts were too tight for the tools we had to loosen them.) A few people stopped to help and a tour bus gave us some extra box lunches they had, but no one had the tools we needed. It took quite a while before someone stopped by that had a compressor. Now it was a race against the clock to reach pavement before we were stranded for the night. Where we averaged 25mph on the way up, we averaged over 50mph on the way out. It was do or die time, and we had run out of options. We were flatter than flat and running on the rims by the time we eventually reached the Klondike Lodge, but our day’s adventures were only beginning…

*2019: And that little cliffhanger is where we’ll be leaving off for this week. Tune in next week to find out if we end up in the trunk of a car, jail, or both!

Arctic Adventure, Part 1

*2019 Intro: Our 2005 Arctic Circle adventure started with one of the biggest adventures of all – The Big Hitchin’! This is a picture-heavy affair, so for the most part I will forgo my standard long-winded narrations and stick to the original photo-plus-caption arrangement. (You’re welcome.) It’s hard to believe that, way back in the day, we used to compress pictures on purpose so websites wouldn’t take 9,000 hours to load on the ol’ dial-up connection. I dug up the High Res on some of these, but… you know. A girl’s gotta have a life outside blog maintenance and picture procurement. Right? <crickets>

*2019: The last 14 years haven’t all been roses and unicorns, but I will say one thing: I have stayed true to myself and the promise I made that day. This was, in fact, the very last time I’ve worn a dress. As opposed to my promise not to be verbose in the post, which I backpedaled on literally in the third content block. Hey, at least I follow through on the really important stuff.

*2019 Pro Tip: Pick an awesome wedding date. You only get married once, but your anniversary is every year. When you pick a date that has special personal meaning for you as a couple, it makes it easier for you to remember. In our case, we picked 7-11 because Mike likes hotdogs and slushies. Not only have neither of us ever forgotten The Big Date, but pretty much everyone else remembers our anniversary too. Bonus: It just so happened that 7-11 fell on a Tuesday. We could invite 794 people so that no one felt slighted, but only like 50 could make it because Tuesday. Toss in a blessedly brief ceremony and a double dose of BBQ, and that’s how you have the perfect hitchin’. Oh, and cake. Gotta have cake. And motorcycles. Anyways, now it’s time for that honeymoon I promised you!

Adventure Awaits! Leaving Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, CA

Mike shows off his slightly scuffed elbow and slightly scuffed bike. We figured one of us would crash at some point, but on the first day? What an over-achiever! (We got stuck in a complete freeway shutdown in Central California after someone lost a boat off a trailer. We were pealing off gear as we languished in triple-digit heat on the blacktop, but after we drank all our water we were just getting cooked. We tried to lane split, which is legal, but angry cagers were deliberately blocking our path. We ended up going down the shoulder, still dodging cars trying to cut us off, and made it to the next freeway exit. As we were turning off the freeway offramp and into a gas station, the heat got the better of Mike and he just tipped over at low speeds. We got his bike up, packed ourselves with ice, and spent some time recovering while actively stink-eyeing every single cage that we saw.)

This evil repugnant goopy spawn of Satan somehow managed to slurp it’s disgusting way into our zipped-shut tent while we slept, and I woke up just as it was preparing to attack by oozing onto my pillow and towards my face. For some reason, Mike didn’t seem to think this brush with death constituted a legitimate reason to wake him up at 6am. Sure, he says that now, but he’d be singing a different tune if this undulating glop ball had gotten to him…

Woo Hoo! We’ve entered The Great White North!
Hope, British Columbia

We were having fun on the Hell’s Gate air tram, air sickness aside. (Or would that be tram sickness?) but then disaster stuck. Seriously, I think the guy taking these pictures pulled a muscle while laughing.

Here’s the real tram. Those Philistines wouldn’t let us stage the “Falling Out Of The Air Tram” picture on this one.  The nerve of them, to quash our creative freedoms. Well, that’s Canada for you, amirite?

Historic Marker: The last spike of the Trans-Canadian Railroad, off Highway 97.
Oooh, look! A tunnel!
Bear Glacier
Highway 37A, British Columbia (Near Hyder, Alaska)
Entering Alaska! That makes 49 states by motorcycle for Wendy, and…   um…
Well, 5 states by motorcycle isn’t a bad start for Mike.

There are dozens of amazing waterfalls along Highway 37A outside of Hyder. The area around Hyder is the world’s largest temperate rain forest. Just look at these pictures – it’s like Hawaii with snow! It rained the whole time, but the lush landscape made it worth it.

Hyder, Alaska. Year-round population: 65 (give or take)
Sealaska Inn, aka The Place to Wash Our Underthings

Wha..?!? Is that an abandoned ice cream truck?!? In Hyder, Alaska? Why, they only get an average of 48 feet of snow each season (which lasts from September to May). Boy, who ever could have predicted that that little venture would have failed? You just never can tell in business…

Yes, you’re reading that right. We stayed at the Border Bandit Discount Store/Bed & Breakfast. And by “discount store”, they mean “Purveyor of Cigarettes, Ammo, and Radical Right-Wing Bumper Stickers.” It was well worth it, just to say we did.

No, we weren’t lucky enough to see the Northern Lights. We had 24 hours of daylight, which was helpful because it allowed us to see in much greater detail the massive swarms of mosquitoes when they tried to attack us at 3am.

A beautiful mountain lake off Highway 37, immediately before the road disintegrated into a couple hundred miles of poorly grated dirt “roads” and  long sections of decades-old construction sites. It is a ton of fun, as long as you’re prepared for it. And not riding an overloaded sport-touring bike.

This picture, and all of the following pictures, are of Boya Lake, British  Columbia. It is a glacial lake, and was absolutely stunningly beautiful. We had never seen water so clear. You could see all the way to the bottom of the lake, and see fish swimming 50 feet from the shore.  

This mountain lake is just breathtaking, although the water had to be just above freezing. I swear we saw ice cubes bobbing in the distance. I thought I was going to lose fingers when I rinsed my hands off in the lake, yet kids were swimming in it well after midnight! I guess if you’re from Canada, you take summer where you can get it… We asked if it was cold, but we couldn’t understand them over the chattering of teeth. I imagine it’s hard to convince your kids to call it a day when it never gets dark.

The water was so perfectly still, it was like looking at a gradually changing painting. What an incredible place to stop for the night! Our campsite was right on the water. Imagine how hard it was to focus on setting up camp!! Even our much-savored evening meal was punctuated with frequent picture breaks. You can see why!

And with an incredibly fiery sunset (at about midnight), we wrapped up our photo session and hit the hay. I don’t think it ever got dark; every time I woke up, it was still light out. (That light was comforting when the bear went through our camp and brushed up against the tent in the middle of the night.)

Yukon: Canada’s True North!
(Not like that other, fake north we hear so much about.)
Dawson City, Yukon. This town was a historic gold rush town and has been maintained in that vein. (Get it? Vein? A little gold rush humor.)
A little sump’n for Ben. We can find BMX Plus at the end of the northermost paved road in Yukon, but not half the places I look in California. (*2019: RIP BMX Plus)

This couple not only rode a SCOOTER two-up all the way from Vancouver, they did it towing that massive homemade trailer contraption the whole way. And they called US crazy for riding the Dempster! Maybe that should have been our first clue…

We had a lot of fun in Dawson City. We spent several enjoyable days here  (some not of our own free will, but more on that later). If you ever make it, have the fish and chips at Sourdough Joes. It was some of the best eats on our whole trip – the fried salmon was yummy, but the fresh local cod was to die for!

Brother Newton E. Webster at the Masonic Temple in Dawson City. Check out those EPIC trucker chops! Way to go Brother Webster!
Walking through Dawson City in the middle of the night

Main Street, Dawson City, Almost midnight. We were just leaving Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Gambling Hall and Burlesque Show. It would have been a lot more entertaining if we were the 70-year-old men the shows were geared towards, but it was fun none the less. The hall itself, as with a lot of the town, has been preserved from the gold rush days.

*2019: This seems like a good spot to wrap up for the week. I’m not going to cram a month-long adventure into one post, after all. Start working on your shale-riding skills and pack some DEET, because next week we’ll be heading up the Dempster Highway. We’ll hit the Arctic Circle, but that’s only be part way to our ultimate destination. See you next week!

I’ve Been Everywhere, Part 3

Once the snow had melted a bit, we moseyed the paltry 90 miles southwest to Zion National Park. We continued to dance right along the edge of the storm, and in some places we could actually see it raining just off the north side of the road but still sunny on the south side. Luckily, though, the snow didn’t follow us and the worst of it stayed to the north.

See that little black hole just right of the center of the picture above? That’s a “window” which allows light into the mile long tunnel. (Yes, the tunnel runs right through the cliff.) You can see it better in the close-up on the right.

What a thrill it was for Mike to see Zion for the first time! The landscape across Utah is varied, and he had enjoyed taking in the changing view on our ride so far. But Zion is a world unto itself. For those of you who have never visited Zion I don’t want to spoil the whole experience, but the entry into the park is very sudden and dramatic. My favorite national park is now his favorite national park, and I highly recommend that everyone wander through at least once.

The change in travel plans left us in a bit of a scramble to re-route through enough locations to complete the AMA contests. Instead of going north through Idaho, we went south back into Arizona. (Remember, Idaho is a three-point state for us where as Arizona is only a two-point state.) However…  There were a few bonus words that were not actually location names in “I’ve Been Everywhere”, but were other words spoken in the song. Getting pictures of places including words such as Bud, Sand, Pete’s Sake, and Mountain Air, among others, all count as three-point bonus pics regardless of how far from home you are. So right about now is when things started to get creative…

All Right!  See what happens when you start paying attention?  Bonus words start coming out of the woodwork! Case in point: “Sand” in Sand Hallow State Park was only a few miles away from where we stayed outside of Zion. We’re not out of the game yet!

Dipping back into Arizona, we headed for a GPS point that was right in the middle of Vermillion Cliffs. Easy enough, we figured, since the whole place is beautiful. Except once again Zumo felt that the best way to get there was by following a well-groomed dirt road for 26 miles until we reached the first gnarly inaccessible 4×4 road it could possibly direct us down. We were getting a little bummed out with these bad GPS coordinates, so we took a little break to simmer down and have some water.  More on that stop on the next page…

*2019 Addendum: OK, I know I told you I’d include some hilariously awful “secret link” type goodies without making you dig. I changed my mind. Trust me when I say that I think it’s best for everyone involved. It includes such nightmare-inducing images as this:

Just trust me on this. This is me looking out for you. And also maybe a little bit about me not wanting to blatantly invite an ambush by Mike by reminding him that I blatantly ambushed him 12 years ago. But it’s mostly about you guys.

*2019 Addendum: Before this completely devolves into a 2007 whinefest, I’m just going to go on record as saying the trouble was most probably not an issue of ridiculously uninteresting locations. In retrospect, there were probably several issues. It’s possible that some of these locations were submitted in different lat/lon formats and something got lost in the process of translating all of them into a uniform format. I ended up looking up several of these locations with an online coordinate conversion tool, so several were probably lost in translation there as well. With more than a decade of in-depth Zumo experience under my belt at this point, I think it’s also fair to point out that Zumo does get sadistic pleasure out of deliberately misrouting people. “Oh, did you request NO dirt roads? My bad; I thought you said EXCLUSIVELY dirt roads. Also, this is as close as I’m getting you. You’re going to have to walk 18 miles from here. How bad do you want this?” Then it laughs this deeply unsettling GPS laugh. It will haunt your dreams. Not quite to the same level as Mike’s nudey booty up top there, but still super creepy.

What I’m saying is, I’d love the opportunity to see what all of these waypoints were supposed to be now that I’ve mastered both coordinate conversion and skillfully guessing which of my three active GPSs is least likely to be lying to me at any given moment. I’m going to keep my 2007 commentary intact though because I think my aggravation provides a hilarious backdrop to the story of my riding life going forward from this point. I’d done Iron Butt Association certified rides before this ride, but only using paper maps. My first endurance rally was still two years away, and… well,… I’ll just let the story tell itself.

Maybe it was karmic retribution, but after “The Incident” we had nothing but a long string of bum or just plain lame GPS points. We did dig up a few more bonus IBE points, but sheesh – we won’t be doing the GPS tour next year, that’s for sure!*

*2019: LOLOLOL! Yeah, that was a solid prediction. If there’s one thing I can say for sure, it’s that I’ve definitely avoided all that silly GPS tour nonsense from that day forward.

First we attempted to take another road to the Vermillion Cliffs coordinates. After 30 miles of hideously lumpy, bumpy, sandy road we arrived at: Nothing. In the middle of a beautiful national monument, our GPS locale was a hill, like every other hill we’d passed in the last 30 miles. On the upside, our Chiropractor made a few extra bucks off us when we got home.

Our next GPS point was right by the Navajo Bridge, the Glen Canyon Dam, and a variety of museums. Where do we end up? At Antelope Canyon -certainly a beautiful place, but staring down yet another 4×4 only road! Come on – Clearly the person who submitted this group of coordinates was either unaware that they should be readily accessible, or figured that since he got there easily on his KLR650 that we should be able to lumber on over on our giant beasts just as easily.

We threw in the towel for the day, and started fresh the following day with this incredibly lucky find: A community near Flagstaff called Mountainaire, which netted us a cool three bonus points. Sweet! The day was off to a good start! We followed that up with Buffalo Pointe, Arizona.

OK, maybe this wasn’t spelled out carefully enough in the coordinate  submission instructions, but if the point is to take a picture of your  motorcycle in a particular location, doesn’t that necessarily rule out roads that are closed to all vehicles except for park trams? This time we could get to the coordinates, we just couldn’t get our bikes there. (And we weren’t willing to risk our $24 entrance fee to try!)

Aaaand then it was right about this time that my Zumo crapped out on me. Just wouldn’t turn back on. No more route, no GPS coordinates, no XM, no MP3s, no traffic or weather info – nada. Just up and died. Of course, there is no cell phone reception in the park, and by the time we found a phone Garmin had already closed. And it was Friday, so that meant the last two days and half-dozen GPS points were basically lost to the cosmos. OK, Karma! I’m sorry I ambushed my husband in his most vulnerable moment! Now can’t we catch a little slack?

Oh, Looky! It’s nothing in the middle of nowhere! And it’s too stinkin’ hot to even breathe! Hooray! Now take the stupid picture so we can leave.

Kingman, AZ

Not yet ready to admit defeat (and not wanting to have to ride back through the desert again to re-attempt the coordinates later), I spent hours on our hotel computer digging up maps of the remaining coordinates retrieved from our (slightly damp) hard copy of the list. They all jived with where Zumo had shown them, but it is clear at this point that either Zumo has it out for us, or the person who submitted these points has a twisted sense of humor, or both. Either way, we were giving it one last shot.

On the long, broiling journey back to the highway from the above referenced nothing point in the middle of nowhere near Lake Mead, we decided to take advantage of a little clause that allows for the possibility of rhyming locations. Since only locations within the United States are counted towards the IBE contest, and some places (like Argentina) are not in the US and don’t have a like-named town here, some flexibility is allowed. We figured Kingman is close enough to Kingston to get the job done, and if not, hey – at least we tried to salvage something out of the hour-long wasted side trip to nothing in the middle of nowhere.

Just for the record – our picture of what a REASONABLE GPS locale should look like!*

*Not an actual point-carrying GPS coordinate.
And the insults just keep rolling in! That’s right, boys – pile ’em on! “Hey, I know!  I’ll submit my own house as a GPS waypoint! Then I’ll get one point just for being in my own garage! Duh-hick!”

And the insults just keep rolling in! That’s right, boys – pile ’em on! “Hey, I know!  I’ll submit my own house as a GPS waypoint! Then I’ll get one point just for being in my own garage! Duh-hick!”

Why stop there? How about an empty cul-de-sac in an industrial park! Is this where the place used to be that blew up a decade or so back? Either way, I don’t care! What’s really important is that it’s 195 degrees out and we’re bordering on heat stroke to get pictures of – NOTHING!! Weeeeee!!

YES! YES! And we’ll wrap it up with a difficult-to-access shoulder next to a FREEWAY OFFRAMP! Woo Hoo! Why Not! Heck, seems like a good idea to me! Of all the stuff in Vegas, we’ve got a house, an empty lot, and a freeway offramp, all within about two miles of each other. Three easy points for some wiener in Vegas, and the final straw for us. The last two GPS points were officially scrapped from the travel plans (both Zumo and the computer showed them to be in the middle of Death Valley with no particular road access – thanks anyways).

So how did we spend our wild and crazy night in Vegas?Well, we started out by applying ice packs to the burns we suffered on our legs from sitting over a screaming hot engine and riding all day through a blast furnace. Then, we hit Hot Dog on a Stick for some high-rolling grub. We followed that up with a trip to the arcade, where we didn’t play anything, then we caught two movies. Then we went to sleep around 11pm. OK, OK, I know – but you have to realize we’re old and crusty now.* That, and we both used to live here and we like our money pretty much not just going away, so all of that part of the city has kind of lost it’s luster for us. Plus, we were tired. So there.

*2019: Old and crusty then? Yeah, that pretty much described our ideal dream date now. Sigh. Those were the days; the heady days of reckless double features and Hot Dog on a Stick.

After a leisurely morning staying cool in the hotel, we made the final searing bolt across the desert and arrived safely back home. No crashes this time, no dangerously bad weather, nothing we couldn’t handle. All in all, a very successful trip! Our total trip was 5,682 miles – a good bit shorter than originally planned, but still not too bad for two and half weeks on the road.

The good news is that even with the skipped GPS points and the re-routing of the end of the trip, we still managed to squeeze 54 points out of the I’ve Been Everywhere tour – enough for our Finisher’s Plaques – and 48 points out of the GPS Tour. We’ll still have to hit a few local GPS points to get Finisher’s Plaques for that ride, but we have until November to complete the rides and submit our photos. There are about six more GPS locations within an short day’s ride of home, as well as four or five more easy IBE points. And so, this page remains a work-in-progress until we decide we’ve  accumulated enough points. Thank you for sharing our adventure with us,  and check back often for the continuing updates!


It has been brought to my attention that I forgot to give you the update on the Zumo. The day after we returned from the trip, I contacted Garmin International. After a brief round of troubleshooting, the tech determined that the battery had probably been faulty from the get-go. Luckily, my 12 hour-a-day use over the last two weeks prompted the battery to fail within the Super Duper Warranty Period, where they replace the unit rather than repairing it. I sent the dearly departed Zumo back to Garmin via Priority Mail, and they actually overnighted the replacement Zumo back to me. Within four days of my phone call, I had a brand new Zumo in my possession. I wasn’t too happy about the failure, but I was extremely pleased with the way Garmin handled the situation. In this era of customer service being “Job None”, it’s really exciting to find a company that goes out of their way to provide the highest quality of customer service. Thanks Garmin – Keep up the Good Work!


My expensive GXM Garmin-XM Receiver Antenna has now also failed. I don’t think I need to go into all the details, but let me just say that exceptionally good customer service can sometimes just be a fluke. I did eventually receive my replacement GXM; the person I spoke with said the item was in stock and would be overnighted to me since I was leaving for a tour that week. Six days later, the day before I was to depart, I called Garmin and asked where my GXM was. The reply? “Oh, that was out of stock.  But it’s in stock now; did you still want that?” Sigh. I guess there was some part of “Urgent Overnight Warranty Claim” that got lost in the translation there. I was able to have the GXM sent on ahead and I intercepted it on the first day of the tour. So in the end, I suppose, it all worked out OK. Now lets just hope I don’t have occasion to test Garmin’s customer service for a third time…*

*2019: LOLOLOLOL… Yeah, I just can’t even craft an eloquent comment beyond “Poor, naive 2007 me.” It just had to be acknowledged.

…And A Few Last Stops…

These are the pictures we submitted for the Best Picture portion of the contest. (We each get to submit one). We once again used the rhyming clause, figuring Jericho was a good rhyme for Jellicoe. Plus, maybe we get bonus points for providing irrefutable proof of having been someplace that doesn’t exist. Will we get three points for this since is clearly says “Kansas”, or will we get one point since we fessed up that it’s really on the set of a television show in California? Only time will tell…*

*2019 Addendum: I still don’t know the answer to this question because we didn’t get a point-by-point breakdown. I still think this was by far our coolest stop though (and by far one of the coolest shows Mike has ever worked on.)


I actually was accosted by some psycho security guard with a God complex when I was taking the picture to the left. She came roaring over in her little securitymobile and started screeching that I was not allowed to take pictures without the express written consent of the property owners. I held eye contact, raised the camera, and blatantly snapped off several pictures. Then I said something to the effect of, “Neener, neener. What are you going to do, arrest me?”* Then I suggested that she buy a coloring book or something to keep herself occupied as I burned out of the parking lot. Who knew that this quest could be so dangerous?

*2007 Note: Now, before anyone comes lumbering over here to arrest me for taking a picture of a big, clearly visible sign on a public sidewalk, that was kind of the Cliff’s Notes version of events (also with a lot of lying to make it seems like I was a lot less meek and agreeable than I actually was), I would be more than happy to recount the life-altering mental anguish I have suffered as a result of the physical threats and  racially charged sexist slurs I suffered at the hands of this horrible beast if you want to drag me into court. And she made fun of the Japanese bike, too.

Once the weather cooled down some, I made a second attempt at the Nevada GPS points. I was already in Las Vegas  for business, but Mike wasn’t able to join me on account of it was Jericho Gun Club Day. I revisited all the points that we hit after Zumo failed on the last trip. Turns out the actual points were the Rodeo Park, the Ethel M Chocolate Factory, and the Oscar’s Martini sculpture near Freemont Street. Even the point near the Hoover Dam appeared to actually be the place where we took the “What A GPS Point Should Look Like” picture. I take back almost all the nasty things I said about the bum GPS points. Well, the ones in Nevada, at least.

And finally, we picked up a few points in California. The Griffith Park Observatory is only accessible by tram, so we got a picture from the roof of a nearby Home Depot. Now that’s ingenuity! And a day of beautiful riding brought us to the Sherman Tree in the Sequoia National Park. The Grand Total is now 44 GPS points for Mike, 50 GPS points for me, and 58 IBE points for each of us.

*2019 Wrap Up: So that’s pretty much how I wrapped that story up originally. I did a nice summary a ways up there, then I slapped some stuff on the end. Then I just kind of let it dangle. Sooo…. HEY, LOOK OVER THERE!

TBT – I’ve Been Everywhere, Part 2

*2019 Addendum: We’ve now had a few days to rehydrate after that uncomfortable Frito Boat/contact buzz camping incident which precipitated the end of last week’s episode of Throw Back Travel. Let us never speak of it again. (At least the beer’s not hopped up!!! Get it?!? Ahhh, that was classic. OK, let us never speak of that again starting… now.) Let us rejoin the adventure-in-progress, where we find our substantially-less-grey nomads exploring the breathtaking beauty of the Rockies.

After our harrowing camping adventure, we were all too happy to hit the road. Our first stop that morning was a GPS point in the mountains of Colorado, and we certainly enjoyed the ride up there. But this time our destination was far more than we anything had expected. We arrived at Bishop Castle (which neither of us had ever heard of before pulling up in front of it), and were immediately awestruck. This entire castle is the work of one man – Jim Bishop – and has been a work in progress since the 60’s.  

The castle’s website,, seemed to be having difficulties last time I tried to visit, but you can also check out for some great castle history. What more can I say – just enjoy the pictures!

Continuing our journey through Colorado, we made our way to the next GPS waypoint – the grave of Buffalo Bill. We’ve been dodging the worst of the bad weather for most of this trip, but every once in a while it reminded us that it wasn’t too far off. After scooting under a mean-looking storm on the way up, we came out from the museum to find that a little bit of the rain had stuck around for us.

We had hoped to visit some of Mike’s family in the area, but with all the weather-related itinerary modifications, we were running a bit behind schedule and couldn’t catch them while we were passing through. Oh, well – there’s always next time! (And since we LOVE riding in Colorado, there certainly will be a next time.)

Another stop, another GPS point – this time at an Atmospheric Phenomenon Research Facility west of Denver.

Not too far down the road, we picked up Louisville for three more IBE points.

After working our way up past Fort Collins and hitting the back roads once again, we made what was quite possibly the single most important stop on our entire trip: Taco Johns! At the behest of my slightly looney husband, I actually paid $5 to download a set of custom POIs (Points of Interest) to the Zumo; when we were within 30 miles of a Taco Johns, Zumo would let us know. (I even modified it to show a little picture of a dancing taco on the map at the location of the Taco Johns. Hey, I readily admit it – I’m a little looney too.) We had to pass up the first Taco Johns we saw due to poor planning (we had eaten breakfast just outside the 30 mile alert radius), but this time we were on it like… well, like hicks on a taco burger. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

(Mike actually just walked in the room right now while I was creating this portion of the site and said, “Mmmmmmm… Taco Johns. I miss you Taco Burger.” Obsessed, that man is. Completely obsessed.)

Following a hearty breakfast of Taco Burgers and Potatoes Ole, we cruised on to hit another GPS point. The road leading to the point followed a river for about 2 1/2 hours, and we could have easily been right here at home riding along the Kern River. Needless to say, it was just beautiful. The GPS point itself was a little lacking, however – an empty meadow 8 miles up a slippery-slick dirt road, thanks to a full day of intermittent sprinkles. Hmmm… Could have passed on that, but hey – three points is three points. Besides, we’ve ridden worse.

Oh, was I just complaining about a little dirt road just now? Well, Zumo seemed to be on a roll because despite the fact that I had specifically asked it not to route us on dirt roads, it kept insisting that we travel on dirt roads. (I guess it just wanted to test it’s level of impact resistance.) Finally, after a few hours of Zumo calling us pansies and threatening to tell all our friends, we agreed to take one of the dirt roads. Ultimately, we were glad we took to road less travelled; the surface was fairly well maintained, but the views were outstanding. Even the rain looked amazing across the sweeping valleys. There was also quite a bit of wildlife – deer, hawks, voles. I guess it goes to show you, Zumo really does know what he’s talking about.

Back on asphalt, it was only a short ride to reach IBE point Grand Lake, Colorado. With the drizzly day and heavy rains elsewhere in the state, the ride was even graced with several pretty little waterfalls. Boy, not a bad ride for a rainy day!

The next day was one of great extremes. We had planned to visit this GPS point the night before, but we’d spent the latter part of the day being snowed on and were concerned about the fact that the road on the map looked like a broken, slightly stretched spring. Probably best not to undertake that in icy conditions, we thought. It turned out to be a VERY wise choice!

The view off the edge of the world…

The road lead us to a GPS point on Mt. Evans, which as you can see is quite beautiful. However, these GPS coordinates probably should have come with a warning: Only Attempt in July or August! The summit is at an elevation of 14,134 feet, reached through a series of steep, rapid switchbacks. And when I say steep, I mean it – 10 to 15% grades, according to the park’s website. It is touted as “The Highest Paved Road In The World”. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, large portions of the road have no edge whatsoever – just a nice, smooth launching pad off the road, over the cliff and into oblivion.

Oh, and also the ice. Ranging in consistency from “I dropped my Slurpee” to “Bust out the Zamboni”, these floes were so treacherous at points that we actually had to exit the road and ride through the snow to get any traction. The ice seemed to enjoy accumulating in steep corners without shoulders, though, so sometimes all you could do was hang on and hope for the best.

That guy in the background came over and said, “Wow, I didn’t expect to see any motorcycles up here today. You guys are pretty brave.” Actually, “Completely Unhinged” would be the term I would have chosen, but we take it where we can get it.

And the goats, obviously, but did I mention the marmots? Yes, the marmots. They live in holes in the ground, often right in the middle of the asphalt. It was like a real life game of whack-a-mole, with the goal being to try not to hit the marmots and also to not die trying to not hit the marmots. A series of fun challenges, no doubt, to which was added one more little complication:

My bike has been a frustrating bucket of crap ever since I had warranty work performed by a Yamaha shop back home (who couldn’t possibly care less) so my bike was actually surging, bogging, and cutting out completely  while attempting to negotiate this already nerve-wracking terrain. Weeee! On a side note, I ended up having to fix the faulty warranty repair on my own. The time and expense required to track down and repair all of the damage they had caused significantly exceeded what it would have cost me to fix the original problem on my own in the first place. So much for the 5 year factory warranty, right? But then, they did end up going out of business. So there is that.

*2019 Addendum: My FJR now has in excess of 250,000 miles, and that particular warranty job was the last time I let anyone else work on it.

A quick stop at Arches National Park netted us three more GPS points

With a low at the summit in the mid-20’s, we were pleased when we made it back down to the relative warmth at the base of the mountain. The entire round-trip back to our starting point, 54 miles total, took us almost 3 1/2 hours. Still trying to warm up, we headed west towards Utah and a few more GPS locations. By the end of the day, we were sweltering away in construction zones with temps well above 100 and grateful for the micro-bursts of cooling rain we were finding every so often. But then, variety is what makes a trip great, and we enjoyed every minute of it.  

(Well, maybe not the minutes I thought I was going to die because my bike surged across the icy road towards a bottomless frozen abyss, but aside from that minor detail I enjoyed nearly every minute of it.)

…And we wrapped the day up with a GPS point in Canyonlands National Park. Despite Zumo’s insistence and our ultimate enjoyment of our last off road adventure, we did NOT take the trail marked “High Clearance 4X4s Only – Extreme Grades – Road is Not Maintained.” We also resisted it’s attempts to make us ride the motorcycles 110 miles along a narrow, highly technical hiking trail, and opted instead to backtrack the following morning along the actual paved road to another actual paved road and progress from there. I think my Zumo may be trying to kill us.

We were lucky enough to get the very last campsite in the entire park, saving us from having to ride about 60 more miles to the next accommodations. Odd, since at least six other vehicles had been circling and none of them took this spot.

In the morning, we found out why. EVERYTHING was coated with a thick, impervious layer of sap from the trees. Apparently seeing us coming, the tree also dropped heavy deposits on the ground and then covered it up with sand, ensuring that every surface of out tent was evenly coated. All I have to say is… eh. It was after 9pm by the time we set up camp, so it’s not like we would have opted to keep going even if we would have know of the tree’s evil plot. Plus, being coated in sap gave Mike another remotely plausible reason to pronounce that we would be spending the following night in a hotel. (Last campsite AND a night in a hotel? Sounds like a win-win situation if you ask me.)

We had to backtrack 38 miles to the highway, but the upside was that we got to stop at Newspaper Rock. We didn’t stop of the way in because it was raining (I’m sensing a theme here…) and we were worried about making it into the park before the gates closed. Mike had never been off the interstate in Utah before, so everything over the next couple days was new to him.

We spent several days in the Four Corners area without picking up a single IBE or GPS point. I love this whole area and there were a lot of things I really wanted Mike to see, unrelated to the AMA Tours. Also, I am leading several motorcycle tours through the Four Corners region this year, so scouting out any changes that have been made since my last visit here will help me plan a better tour for those guests.

Our wanderings took us through Glen Canyon Recreation Area and around Lake Powell, Capitol Reef National Park, Grand Escalante National Monument and Dixie National Forest on our lush and varied ride to Bryce Canyon National Park. Below is a picture of a previous visit to Lake Powell where the water reached nearly up to the buildings at the base of the cliff (the buildings appear as white specs in this picture.) The second picture is Mike this year; you can’t even see water in the picture.

But the lack of water didn’t mean a lack of enjoyment; Mike was thoroughly awestruck by the majesty of the landscape.

After a beautiful ride from Canyonlands National Park, despite a little rain and a lot of wind, we arrived in Bryce Canyon just in time for sunset. Mike had seen pictures in the other national parks we’d visited, but they do nothing to prepare you for what it’s really like here. Simply Amazing!

Between being covered in sap and Mike’s sciatica (or tennis elbow or pink eye or bug bite or which ever ailment it was that manifested whenever we had to choose between camping or staying in a hotel), this was definitely going to be another hotel night. As we were checking in, another biker came in and asked about the weather. “Supposed to be a snow storm tonight.” No. Is that possible?  For Pete’s Sake, it’s June! Well, you better believe that was justification enough for Mike for all the hotels we’d slept in so far and all the hotels we certainly would be staying in from here on out. You just never know when it could up and snow on you, right honey?

It’s funny; I can pinpoint the exact moment that we ceased to be a “camping” couple and officially became a “pansy” “indoor” “hotel” couple. It was right about three hours after I took the picture below, when Mike finally woke up and looked outside. “Aw, we’re snowed in.  Can’t ride today.”

That was it. That was effectively the end of Mike’s camping career. But not mine, I tell you! You’d better believe that I’ll be a camping fool on solo trips! (Mike’s pretty sure that “camping” and “fool” are synonymous anyways, so I figured I’d just run with it.)

Our original plan had been to head north out of Zion National Park and travel up into Idaho, then back down through Oregon, Nevada and the Gold Rush Country of California. It turned out, though, that this storm was actually pretty serious and that we were just picking up wisps of the very southern tip of the storm system. It’s not that we don’t like adventure, of course, but we were already a little tight on time due to the weather we’d been skirting on the whole rest of the trip. Being rushed and riding in icy snowy conditions is not the best choice to make, especially since we were on vacation and didn’t have to stick to no stinkin’ itinerary. So, plans changed. We took an extra day to explore around Bryce, and after the snow melted a bit we made the leisurely trip over to Zion.

*2019 Addendum: Well, we’ve made it to what is, in my humble opinion, the closest to heaven anyone is likely to get in the Lower 48. We might as well linger around here for a week, take some time to really enjoy ourselves, and pick up the journey next week. Tune in next Thursday for the finale of the I’ve Been Everywhere Throwback Travel Spectacular!

TBT – I’ve Been Everywhere, Part 1

*2019 Addendum: We were so young… To quote Jim Gaffigan “I didn’t always look like this… but the wear and tear of parenthood… I used to be muy guapo. No mas.” It’s only going to get worse from here, folks.

I’ve been everywhere!

OK, now before you accuse me of being presumptuous, let me explain:  

We had so much fun last year doing to AMA Made In The USA Grand Tour that we decided to do one again this year. When the list of tours came out, there were two that we found especially intriguing. The first one we picked (which, upon reading the description, actually resulted in spontaneous dual happy-dances and a series of high-fives right there in the post office) involved visiting as many places as possible that are named in the Johnny Cash song, “I’ve Been Everywhere”.  

The second ride we picked would supply us only with a list of GPS coordinates, and our goal was to locate and ride to these specific points around the country. The fact that we did not own a GPS at the time we signed up for these did not deter us in the least. Luckily, I had a Big Ol’ Birthday the day before we left for our trip, and everyone knows that Big Ol’ Birthdays are know classically as GPS Birthdays. Or at least Mike and my parents know that, because by the time we shoved off I had an awesome new Garmin Zumo 550, complete with Bluetooth, MP3s, XM, NavTraffic, Custom POIs, the works. Thanks guys!  

We took two and a half weeks off for this trip, so in addition to the two AMA contests, we also spent some time just seeing and doing stuff. You know, “stuff”. (For those of you who just came from the Arctic Circle page*, you may recall that at that time, Mike had only visited 5 states by motorcycle. This trip more than doubled his previous state count, so there was all kinds of new “stuff” he had never seen before.) And we have a lot of stuff to share with you, so sit back, relax and enjoy – I know we sure did!

*2019 Addendum: As of this publishing, our Arctic Circle trip not yet published as a #ThrowBackTravel. Stay tuned!

Luckily, our first two days were almost entirely desert. That meant we were going to get cooked either way, and a half hour here or there really didn’t make no nevermind. Our trip started at 6:30am on Saturday morning, about a half hour later than planned because Mike had a dead battery. We had on our lightest summer gear and Camelbaks full of ice, with our goal being to get 1,500 miles across the desert to San Antonio, Texas by the next night. Piece of cake!

Our first IBE (I’ve Been Everywhere) stop was Vicksburg, Arizona. We could only use each place name once and we get more points for places more than two states from home, so we didn’t stop anyplace in California and only picked up the easiest spots on our way through Arizona. We had to photograph our bikes at the locations, same as last year, except this year they also added the humbling detail of having to hold up these goofy flags to prove the picture was taken after the contest start date. Luckily, we have no pride. Just outside Phoenix was our first GPS point; it turned out to 
be the Chinese Cultural Center. Not a bad start!

The Cultural Center was where Mike made the first of many tactical errors. In this case, he said “Honey, I’m going to sneak down into that stairway and clean all the road crud out of my nose.” He didn’t specifically ask me to warn him if anyone was coming up behind him to use the stairway, so I didn’t. Instead, when he was startled by the approaching couple and turned around to see if his cover was blown, I seized the opportunity and snapped this oh-so-flattering picture. Hey, it’s not like I didn’t have to suffer for my art; I quite nearly wet my pants laughing while Mike threw the rest of his tepid Camelbak water on me in retribution. That incident pretty much set the tone for the rest of the trip…

*2019 Addendum: This picture is just the gift that keeps on giving. I literally choked on my whiskey while re-reading and reminiscing about this incident. Hey, I DID mention the wear and tear of parenting, did I not? That’s where the whiskey comes in… And we only have the one little angel. God bless you people who have survived multiple children.

Our next GPS point was a good one – The Airplane Graveyard outside Tucson. Unfortunately, it seems the coordinates we were provided with were actually inside a restricted area, as the graveyard is located on a military base. No trouble; Mike can put on his sexy Zoolander face outside the fence just as easily as he can inside.

Not being of the Iron Butt persuasion, Mike was really starting to feel itafter about 750 miles. We finally called it a day in Lordsburg, New Mexico, where we found a smoking hot deal on a hotel off the beaten path. We figured since we were going so hard for the first couple days, and it was so hot, we needed a good nights sleep and therefor a hotel room was clearly justified.

…And within a few hours we found out why the hotel room was so cheap! We were directly across the street from the rail yard, so we spent a nice evening listening to the blaring train whistles. Luckily, after 15 hours and 788 miles in the saddle, we were pretty well beat and the noise didn’t affect our sleep that much. (Don’t let the picture fool you; Mike looks like that every morning.)

Our first stop on day two was Bakersfield, Texas. Yes, we live near Bakersfield, California, but it’s worth three points in Texas and only one in California. Plus it gave us an excuse to get off the freeway, and ANYTHING that livens up the drive on I-10 across Texas is welcomed.

Our next set of coordinates delivered us to the historic Hunt Japonica Cemetery near Ingram, Texas. We had ridden into a nasty east-moving storm, so we welcomed the opportunity to putt around on small country roads and give the storm a little time to move on. In fact, this may not have been our intended destination; the GPS said our coordinates were a little farther up the road, but just beyond the cemetery the road was closed due to flooding.

Our plan to dodge the storm did work to some extent, but alas, we caught up with the rain again pretty quick. At this point we were only about an hour out of San Antonio, and luckily we never caught back up to the really heavy rain. We had just enough rain to cool us down and clean the road and our face shields, but not enough to seriously diminish our vision or traction. There was even a beautiful double rainbow, and at one point we passed a really pretty waterfall cascading off a rugged rock cliff. Of course, we were on the interstate in the rain so we didn’t pull over for pictures. (Have you ever driven on the interstate in Texas? Psycho truckers galore!) Luckily I have provided you with an artist’s rendition of what it might have looked like if we had pulled over for pictures and the sky’s green Gel Pen ran out of ink. Enjoy!

We arrived in San Antonio as scheduled around 8pm on Sunday. Mike pulled through two 750+ mile days with flying colors (and only a little crying). As a reward for our hard work, we spent several days playing in the San Antonio area. The weather was perfect, too – cloudy enough to keep the  temperature down, but not so cloudy that it was unbearably humid. What a great way to kick off our vacation!

*2019 Addendum: Just a few months back, Mike completed an Iron Butt Association certificate for a Bun Burner Gold. That involves riding over 1,500 miles in under 24 hours. He planned and executed the entire ride solo, without any prodding from me. He often claims he’s not a “real” Iron Butt rider and calls himself my “rally wife” but he has notched out some pretty impressive rides in the last decade!

The Alamo (in case you forgot)

Being a Crockett and an Honorary Crockett, San Antonio is a fun place to visit. Even though Mike lived in San Antonio for a year when he was in elementary school, he seemed to enjoy seeing it again through the Crockett filter. He really liked one quote in particular from Davy Crockett that was prominently displayed on magnets, T-shirts,coffee mugs, and the like:

“You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas.” 

What can I say – we Crocketts are an historically well-spoken bunch.

We enjoyed strolling around The Alamo grounds and downtown San Antonio, although it was very busy due to the fact that it was Memorial  Day. We still had a great time; my only regret is that the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parlor was all out of adult sized socks that said “Alamooo” on them. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.

We did get another shot at a waterfall picture as we strolled along the Riverwalk. I was also quite please with myself that I managed walk for an extended period of time along railingless sections of the path without falling in the river, which is no small feat when you are as prone to humiliating public displays of clumsiness as I am.

We took a riverboat cruise, which wasn’t quite as rich in historical insight as we had hoped. In fact, it was a lot like the riverboat ride at Disneyland except with fewer hippos (and if our guide had a gun I’m pretty confident it wasn’t a prop).

It was a beautiful ride, regardless of the lackluster commentary. This bird probably stood over three feet tall, and here he is just hanging out right in the center of a major metropolitan area.

We made a little side trip down memory lane and visited the elementary school that Mike attended when he lived there. The house they lived in was  right around the corner, so we stopped by there for a couple minutes until leery neighbors gave us the “Can I help you with something” (re: go away) line. After all, we ARE couple of shifty bikers on 2005 Yamaha touring motorcycles. You know how hinkey we Yamaha types are.

That night we made a very tasty stop at Rudy’s Country Store and BBQ. Those of you who watch as much Food Network as we clearly do are probably familiar with Rudy’s, as they have been on numerous “Best Of…” shows. And they weren’t lying! The locals were awesome, and several people stopped to give us tips on the way to order and the best stuff to get – Doc Holliday himself was working the register! It really was as good as they say!

Those of you who watch as much Travel Channel as we clearly do will be familiar with our next stop… SCHLITTERBAHN! WOO HOOO! Number One water park like 9 years running! We had  SO MUCH FUN!! The lines were short, the weather was great – all in all it was an outstanding day!

I’m trying something new with my hair in this picture; I like to call it, “Humid”. (But Attack of the Giant Fuzzy Poof Ball works too, if you prefer.)

After several great days of R&R in Texas, it was time to mosey on. The first stop on our northward journey was to be another GPS point; in actuality, our first stop was to put on our rain gear because the sky was once again looking REALLY menacing. Our second stop was here, at this flooded-out road about two miles from our destination coordinates. As we sat sweltering, peeling back out of our rainsuits, a local pulled up to take stock the situation. After some humming and hawing, he determined that it was probably “The Old Stone Church” that we were looking for, and gave us alternate directions. (Yes, I’ve crossed much bigger rivers on my motorcycle, but I was with far less discerning company at the time.)

…And indeed, our target was St. Olaf’s Kirke. Built in 1886 for the Norwegian settlers in the area, this historic church is beautifully maintained inside and out. Oh, and there are lots of turtles on the roads around here. Just so you know.

Our next planned stop was a GPS point in downtown Ft. Worth, but with the St. Olaf Detour we would be getting there smack dab in the middle of rush hour. On top of that, Zumo kept warning me of severe weather alerts in the area which supposedly included hail and high winds. Hmmmm… No thanks*. Instead, we kept west and picked up Reno, Texas for our first IBE point of the day.

*2019 Addendum: LOLOLOL! Hail. Now they call me “Hurricane” Crockett. And by “they” I mean “Mike and like two other people”, but that still counts. Seriously, I’ve ridden in/through/documented rally bonus locations in the eye of three different hurricanes. Irene, Isaac and Ivan. I’m not talking the damp outskirts, I’m talking the literal eye of. That was terrifying. I probably wouldn’t opt to do that again. Probably. Depends on how many points are at stake. But… you know,… probably not.

Our next photo op was at the Oklahoma border for another IBE locale and three more easy points. Oooh – look at that enthusiasm!

We called it a day at the Ardmore, Oklahoma KOA, netting us both a nice place to camp and another IBE pic. A call to our back-up 24-hour weather information source (Mom) confirmed that the weather in Dallas had been extremely dangerous that evening. Looks like that three point sacrifice was a good call!

That evening we dined like kings on left-over Rudy’s BBQ, and awoke the next morning to find that the storm had provided a pretty pleasant layer of coolness. Not quite rain, just really damp air. Hey, as long as it’s not flooding or hail storms, we’ll cool off any way we can!

On our meandering journey through Oklahoma to our first IBE point (Chattanooga) was possibly the most regretted missed photo of the entire trip. We were cruising up this tiny back road in the middle of nowhere when we came upon about a dozen cows standing side by side, all backed right up to the fence giving us the tail-end salute. It’s like they knew we were coming… I was laughing so hard – you couldn’t set up a shot like that but I’m sure by the time we stopped and got the camera ready they would have found more pressing matters to attend to elsewhere. <sigh> At least we’ll always have the memories…

Another zig-zaggity dip southward returned us to Texas, where we picked up IBE point Fargo. Peak Population: 200. Current Population: This sign, plus the guy who wandered by to laugh at us taking pictures in front of this sign.

Back in Oklahoma, we found ourselves on a tiny one-lane road passing through a little wisp of a town called Elmer. In admiring this great old building I saw that “Post Office” was painted over the doorway; needing stamps, we decided to stop. On our way in we noticed that the tile work in front of the entryway read “Bank”, and the design of the room with an old brass cage in front of the counter certainly supported that declaration. It turned out to be a Post Office, and I asked the lady working the counter what the story was with the conflicting signage. She said that the building had in fact been a bank, but the post office moved in after the bank closed due to a robbery. She thought the robbery took place in 1902, but her mom was born in the next town over in 1920 and she knew for sure that it was robbed some time before she was born. Isn’t small town history awesome?

Out of the half-dozen or so Eldorado’s we passed through on our trip, we decided to stop in Eldorado, Oklahoma for this three-point IBE photo.

Our next stop was in Amarillo, Texas (we crossed the Texas border 6 times, for those of you keeping count) for another IBE pic and to give Mike a shot at the “Free” 72 oz. steak at The Big Texan. Alas, the idea of everlasting notoriety clashed with the reality of riding with a monumental stomach ache for the next two weeks. Plus, information on how much the meal cost if you were unable to finish it was nowhere to be found. Even though we decided to take a pass, Mike still took a few minutes to bond with the gigantic fiberglass bull.

Our plan had been to stay in Amarillo for the night so we would be close to a hospital when Mike’s stomach exploded, but with the change in meal plans came a change in travel plans. We decided instead to push on 111 miles to Tucumcari, New Mexico to get some boring desert riding out of the way. For the first few miles we rode in a bit of a breeze; for the next few hours, we rode in 40mph sustained winds with frequent gusts up to 60 mph. Mike said he was amazed watching me have to ride at about a 35 degree angle just to stay upright, and wished he could have taken a picture. Of course, he was riding at a similar angle himself and the only time he took his hand of the handlebars was to catch his tank bag as it was flying off.  

We finally arrived in Tucumcari, thoroughly exhausted, and Mike ran in to get us a hotel room while I stayed outside to keep the bikes upright. A particularly vicious gust of wind came, causing a hotel light fixture to come  crashing down on my head. (Luckily I was still wearing my helmet at the time.) Upon collapsing into our room, we turned on the news to find that most of the towns we had passed through that day, including Amarillo and points west, were being pounded by golf ball-sized hail, torrential rain, and the occasional tornado. Once again, disaster narrowly averted. This isn’t shaping up to be anything like our normal vacations! (*2019: Insert giant pre-emoji eyeroll here. Come to think of it, I can’t believe we don’t have a “sarcasm” font in widespread use by now.)

The next day in Los Alamos, NM, we ran into a bum GPS point. Despite attempts to reach the point from several different directions, we were unfailingly met by big men in guard shacks who were unimpressed by our explanation as to why we were seeking entry to the Los Alamos Nuclear Research Facility. Well, at least we tried!

All was not lost, however. It was a beautiful ride in perfect weather through breathtaking scenery. Plus, we had an incredible lunch at the Hill Diner in Los Alamos. Mike had sweet potato fries that were fried in a super-thin buttermilk batter (kind of a Tempura-like consistency), and the sweet  potatoes just melted in your mouth. Served with a dish of whipped cream for dipping, these were definitely the surprise culinary find of the trip!

*2019 Addendum: To this day I have never had sweet potato fries as good as the ones I had at Hill Diner on this trip. I’ve actually been back to Hill Diner at least twice and ordered the sweet potato fries both times; they were good, but not THAT good. I simply can’t rest until I find another plate of sweet potato fries as life-changing as those. It is a cross that is mine to bear.

Sweeping back roads and endless views delivered us to Colorado, and yet  another IBE locale ticked off our list. Being on such a tiny road afforded us a better photo op than most state line signs, so we took some time to kick back and enjoy our surroundings.

When Mike says he’s about ready to wrap it up for the day, what he means is he’s open to finding a stopping point anywhere within a roughly 1.25 mile radius. So when he cried Uncle in Walsenburg, Colorado, we hit the closest campground we could find. I saw it as we passed by, laughed, and kept on riding. It was only a glance in my rear view mirror and the look of desperation on Mike’s face that brought me to a halt. I say, “Did you SEE that place! Ha ha ha! Where’s the campground map?” and Mike says, while executing a rapid U-turn and spraying me with gravel, “Looked fine to me -let’s go.”

The guys in the “office” looked completely shocked when we walked up to the door. It appeared by the looks of the sign that at some point, one of the more functional stoners residing at this ramshackle trailer park said, “Hey y’all, why don’t we throw a sign up there that says ‘Campground’ and see if anyone stops. We could get maybe, like, beer money or something, y’all.” Then ten or twelve years later we actually come rolling in, much to the surprise of the current residents, whose memory of the campground sign is erased daily via alcohol-induced amnesia. They didn’t have any paperwork or anything, and between the two of them they couldn’t figure out when (or if) we were supposed to pay, how much, or who would stagger off to the liquor store to get another 12-pack and change for our $20.  

Mike, still whole-heartedly supporting this plan, then blazed a trail through the dilapidated trailers and rotting farm equipment to our home for the night: the illustrious Tent/Picnic Area, situated conveniently in the farthest possible corner away from the bathrooms. Oh, yes – they did actually have bathrooms. We made the unfortunate mistake of having Frito Boats for dinner, otherwise neither of us would have ventured into the abominable pits more than once. I won’t repulse you with the details; suffice to say that even the numerous stray dogs in the area wouldn’t come close. I hope we were up to date on all our shots…

Another big problem came to our attention shortly after setting up camp: It was Friday night. And what do trailer park denizens do on Friday night They drink beer. And where do they drink beer? In the Tent/Picnic Area, of course. We became increasingly nervous as wave after wave of redneck set out towards us carrying cases of beer, only to see the look of angry realization come over their faces as they stomped off to find somewhere else to get liquored up for the night. After a while, though, it appeared that word of our presence had spread and our visitors because fewer and farther between. This gave us time to take in our surroundings: A Pizza Hut to the north, just past the mud pit. A Mini Storage to the east. The trailer park to the south. And to the west, a junk yard housing several of the higher-class residents living in mobile homes on bricks instead of wheels.  

As night grew near, we were also treated to the sounds of an honest-to goodness redneck brawl:  “Screw you, Walter.  You jest git the hell out, you damn dawg.” “Yeah, that’s right woman. An I ain’t comin back naw neither. Jest you git out here an’ push sos I git the car started and I won’t never be back here again.” Ahhh – commonlaw wedded bliss, redneck style. We didn’t hear too many gunshots, so I’m sure things turned out all right.

In the morning as we were packing up to leave, we watched a guy maybe thirty feet from us get into his car, drive over to us, and get out. We got the standard cop-style “Hows it going” that seems to precede trouble of all kinds, and we waited cautiously for the guy to make his move. Turns out he was just checking out the new neighbors, and we chatted with him for a few minutes. He used to live in Bakersfield, California*, but now he’s retired and lives here. Everyday he drives from his place (30 feet south of our present location) to what he called “work” (20 yards west of our location), where he would sit and drink beer for the remainder of the day. We wished him well in his career pursuits, and watched as he got in his car, drove the 20 yards to “work”, and knocked on the door. He then sat down on the lawn chair and began drinking a beer, and was joined shortly thereafter by another man who, without a word, did the same. Mind you, this all took place just a hair past 7am.  

*2019 Addendum: Let the record show that I refrained from making any disparaging remarks regarding Bakersfield, Oildale, Bodfish, California in general, or generic brand beer. At least we can assume the beer wasn’t all hopped up.      Awww, c’mon! That was a good one!

Well, it was an exhilarating night, but like I told Mike: We only remember the spectacularly good campgrounds and the spectacularly bad ones, and spectacularly good ones are few and far between. And in the end, we left with our lives, our health (pending the test results back from our doctors) and one more good story.

*2019 Post Script: This feels like a good place to pause for now. Maybe go brush our teeth, get that weird Frito Boat/stale beer taste out of our mouths. Any I mean really, this trip is entitled “I’ve Been Everywhere”. You didn’t expect “everywhere” to be encompassed in a single post, did you? In fact, it’s looking like IBE is shaping up to be a solid three-parter. The good news is, this time I won’t make you look for the secret link to see Mike’s butt. Probably. 😉

2010 Cal24 Rally

*2019 Context: This was my first “other” endurance rally. My first rally ever was the 2009 Iron Butt Rally, which is kind of a bass-ackwards way to approach endurance competitions, but hey – I’m not really an fass-orwards kind of girl. During the Iron Butt Rally I’d identified some weaknesses in my route planning approach, decided to make a few changes to my bike, added a 4.5 gallon auxiliary fuel tank, upgraded some of my tech, etc. Apparently I decided to do all of this roughly 8 minutes before the start of the Cal24, which is always a solid plan. As expected, hilarity ensued. This was also originaly written as a ride report for the Cal24 forum, so it assumes some basic knowledge of the bonus locations and people involved, but it’s still a fun read if you like to bear witness to an absolute cavalcade of rally-related errors. Enjoy my suffering!

I set the tone for my inaugural Cal24 rally early. Thursday, to be precise – the night before I was to leave for San Jose. I’d been waiting for a new controller to arrive for my heated gear for over a month, and it finally made its appearance about 16 hours before kickstand-up. Conventional wisdom says that changing your bike in the weeks before a rally is ill advised, say nothing of hours before. But this was a straight-forward install: no cutting, no difficult mounting or routing. The controller was already fused with battery terminal eyelets already installed, so all I had to do was connect it to my battery. What could possibly go wrong?

Over the course of my evening, I installed my controller (yeah!) and found that my Tire Pressure Monitoring System no longer worked (crap). I found that while installing the controller I had accidentally disconnected a wire at the TPMS switch (yeah!) which didn’t fix the problem (crap). I found that the disconnected wire had caused a blown fuse (yeah!) and now my controller and my TPMS both worked (yeah!) but my amp didn’t (crap). A few different fuses serve different parts of my amp circuit, so after checking several wires I found that a wire had been pulled out of the fuse box when I swapped out the other fuse (yeah!) Now my amp switch would light up (yeah!) but still no audio (crap). I eventually tracked down the problem to one of the wires I had previously checked (yeah!); when I’d pulled it out to  check the fuse, I managed to pull the wire out of a connector (crap). I didn’t have any more of the particular connector I needed (crap) but after some impressive MacGuyvering I managed to restore my bike to the same condition it had been in before my easy ten-minute controller installation began five hours earlier (yeah!).

Disaster averted, I set out for San Jose the next morning. My ride was relatively uneventful, although I was surprised that my husband Mike hadn’t called to confirm that my SPOT tracking page was working as we had discussed. With my fuel cell I was able to make the trip non-stop, and I arrived to find about 200 missed calls and texts from Mike. Apparently my SPOT hadn’t been tracking properly, and he began to worry when I didn’t answer my phone for hours. My Zumo showed that my phone was connected, so I couldn’t figure out why it hadn’t alerted me of any incoming calls. Of course, my old Zumo had failed the previous week and this new  replacement Zumo might still need the Bluetooth settings fine-tuned. I set Mike on the task of figuring out what the problem might be so I could go check in and get through tech inspection without having to worry about it too much. I rolled into the hotel around 1pm and my inspection started right away. Everything went fine, but it seemed to me that one of my fuel cell fittings was a little shinier than it should be. It had never leaked before, and when I touched it my finger seemed to come away dry, so I didn’t worry too much about it. I went ahead and did my odo check, and by the time I came back the shiny spot had turned into a full fledged leak. Dagnabbit. I’d deliberately not packed a ton of tools, figuring that anything requiring major tools would be too much for me to recover from on a 24-hour rally  anyhow. Luckily everyone around me chipped in some tools and Alex Harper had the fuel-rated thread tape I needed, so within about 45 minutes I had pulled the tank, re-taped the joint, reinstalled everything and was once again leak free. Thank goodness I got that out of the way!

While I was wrapping up my fuel cell install, Mike called and shed some light on my phone situation. He had discovered that our new phones were not compatible with the Zumo. It was sheer luck that they recognized each other at all, but there would be no way to get everything fully functional unless I got a new phone. That would have been nice to know before I was sitting at the starting line, but since the phone and Zumo both showed a good connection and I was able to make calls, it never occurred to me that I might be missing incoming calls. He had also called SPOT, who swore that sometimes the “tracking” and “on” lights would flash in unison as if  tracking, when it was actually just sending out an “OK” message. For five straight hours. I wasn’t buying it, but hopefully SPOT would see fit to track properly the next day.  

In retrospect, maybe I should have run away when I was assigned rider number 13. I drew a kind of shamrock/snot puddle thing on my flag (I’ve been told that my artistic “ability” leaves something to be desired) hoping that might counteract any bad omens that might accompany my new number. No biggie. I’m not particularly superstitious, so I figured the combination of the shamrock, my lucky underwear, my two worry stones and my lucky necklace would work together to cancel out the 13 and leave me back on level ground. After getting everything sorted out downstairs, I finally checked into the hotel and made my way up to my room. I wanted to make sure my computer was charged and everything was ready to roll for the next morning. I saved a new Streets & Trips file with my custom pushpins, saved an Excel file with appropriately named tabs, and attempted to connect to the internet. After an hour of troubleshooting I still wasn’t connected and it was time to head down to the rider’s meeting. The meeting went fine, meaning I managed not to fall in the pool or break any bones, and when it was done I headed straight for my room and another hour or so of troubleshooting. I finally sorted out the problem and got my browser functioning properly, so around 9:30pm I went to bed knowing I had everything in order for efficient routing the next morning.

The 5:45am riders meeting was quick and to-the-point, so a few minutes later I was running back to my room clutching my bonus pack and a thumb drive harboring my electronic waypoints. I tried to process the text file like I’ve done in the past, but I couldn’t get it to load. It was in a different format than I was used to seeing, so I tried to modify the file a bit so S&T would recognize it, to no avail. I tried opening the other two file types provided on the drive, but neither of them would open either. Time was ticking by and I knew I was getting nowhere fast, but I’d already invested so much time in trying to get the text file right that I just couldn’t give up. I figured once I got that file sorted out it would be smooth sailing, and I knew I must be just a click or two away from getting it right. Twenty-five minutes into our hour of free routing time I finally gave up on the electronic waypoints and started inputting the bonii by hand. I tried to remember to save often, but I got on a roll for a while there and apparently I forgot. I was reminded when my f*%king computer froze up. I’d had about ¾ of the bonii programmed in at the time of the crash, and I lost all but ten. By that time it was about 7:15am, 15 minutes after we were officially allowed to leave, and I was still monkeying around trying to make the waypoints viewable on a map. I had no idea whatsoever what the overview of the base route looked like, let alone the Dog Bone or thread bonii options. I just couldn’t sit around any longer, so I decided to use the .gpx file to load the bonii into my GPSs as POIs. I had to return the thumb drive, so I copied the files to my desktop before wrapping things up and headed for the parking lot. I would aim towards the first bonus in the base route and try to formulate a plan on the way. If worse came to worse, I would get to the first checkpoint early enough to plan a strong second and third legs. It was almost 7:30am, but my rally was finally under way.

A few other guys were in the parking lot when I was gearing up, and they all seemed to have experienced problems similar to mine. Alex Harper was there, and he mentioned that he used MapSource to view the .gpx file. I had tried to open the .gpx file by double-clicking, but I hadn’t tried opening MapSource and then opening the file. He said, “No, I just double-clicked on the file and it opened right up.” Weird. (After the rally I checked out the files I had transferred to my desktop. The gpx file, which my computer had previously claimed could not be opened with any program known to mankind, popped up with a shiny new MapSource logo after it was copied to my desktop. Upon clicking, it happily opened the full bonii list without a moment’s hesitation. Dag. Nab. It. While making a route map for this story, I saved the .gpx file on a thumb drive. Even though I created the file in MapSource, it did not show the MapSource logo and would not open until I jumped through a bunch of hoops to convince it that MapSource was the program for the job. Interesting. Must investigate further.) Well, it was too late to do anything about it at that point. For now, it was off the Bonus One.

*2019 Addendum: Up until recently, most rallies limited the file size of the bonus pictures to nothing bigger than VGA. These pictures may be a little less than top notch, and that it’s not entirely due to my old school digital camera equipment or marginal skills as a photographer. It’s also entertaining to look back at pictures which, at 3am when I originally took them, I though were fantastic and did a great job of capturing the bonus, only to discover that they were barely discernible at the scoring table. I suspect that the entertainment factor of watching riders like me squirm at the scoring table was a big factor behind the VGA size limit.

When I arrived at the first bonus at Petaluma Adobe State Park, I found half a dozen bikes parked in a small cul-de-sac next to a locked fence. It looked like I was in for a little walk, so I decided to go ahead and plan out the rest of my leg before I got off the bike. I wanted to see how much extra time I’d have to stray off the base route, so I started by compiling the base bonii waypoints into a route file. That lasted all of about 12 seconds, until I realized that only around half of the waypoints had survived the transfer into the GPS. How the hell did I screw that up?!? It’s not as if I had to  transfer them one at a time; you select an entire file, and the POI Loader moves the contents of the file, in its entirety, to the GPS. I’ve always thought it was an all-or-nothing type of affair, but clearly I stood corrected. I had to manually enter many of the first leg waypoints, and by the time I was done I was looking at a route that would take me just about to the opening of the first checkpoint. Hmmm. Not a lot of wiggle room there, I’m afraid. I decided I would just stick it out on the base route, knock out some miles, and pull up the MapSource file for some strategizing at the checkpoint.

As I was finishing up my route, a white jeep pulled up next to me. The driver, smartly dressed in his little park ranger get-up, gave me a bit of the stink eye and told me I would have to move out of his way so he could get into the park. I smiled sweetly and rolled off to the side of the drive. He let himself through the fence, chatting with Matt Pflugh for a minute on the way in. When I got off the bike to start my walk, I noticed that the gate had been left open. Matt saw me eyeballing the open road and said, “He told me he wouldn’t let anyone in until 10am.” More than an hour from now. “And to make things worse,” he continued, “I walked all the way in there before I realized I’d forgotten my flag.” Ooh, that hurts. I looked from Matt to the gate and back to Matt. “So he told you not to go in until 10am, right?  I didn’t hear him say that.  I’m going for it.” I hopped on my bike and drove into the park as if I belonged there. There were a few guys walking back out from the park who seemed amused by my attempt to circumvent the ranger, and they pointed me in the direction of the marker I needed to photograph. I quickly found the marker and ran over to grab my picture. The ranger came speeding by as I hot-footed it back to my bike and he slowed down just enough for me to hear that vein throbbing in his forehead before speeding off, presumably to lock the front gate. Matt was making his way back into the park on foot as I made my exit, so I wished him well and hurried to get back on public roads before I found myself trapped in the park for the next hour.

My second bonus at the General Store (established in 1881) was a breeze, so I headed to Stewart’s Point Road and began winding my way to the third bonii of the morning. This road is a bit on the twisty side, and I just couldn’t seem to find my groove. After I’d repaired my fuel cell leak I’d left the tank about half full, just in case the fix didn’t hold. My tank is well baffled, so it was quite possibly just psychosomatic, but all my corners felt just a hair off from fully controlled. And that was before taking the gravel, run-off, and  oncoming traffic into consideration. Matt caught up with me, then passed me, but I just couldn’t get in the zone. By the time I reached the Stewart’s Point General Store, Matt had already obtained the requisite receipt and was getting ready to split. The PCH is familiar territory, so after snagging my receipt I was able to make up a little time. I pulled into the bonus at the Druid’s Hall just behind Matt. 

Back on the road, we were both eyeballing the coast for a place to pick up the Super Mega Secret Bonus. Before long we came across Van Damme State Park and spied all of the necessary elements we would need to pocket a cool 1,000 points. I jogged down to some kind-looking folks in swimming attire and pled my case. The required composition of the picture was fairly specific, so I yanked my boots off and tossed my camera to Matt. He captured me holding my flag, standing knee-deep in the water next to a stranger, with people (and, in my case, two dogs) dressed in such a way as to indicate the intent to swim. Piece of cake. I returned the favor for Matt, and before long we were dryish, virtually sand-free, and back on the road.

With a little sleuth work I found the correct visitor’s center at Point Cabrillo  Historic Park and grabbed my picture. I’d been without cell reception most of the morning, so I gave Mike a call as soon as I picked up some bars outside of Fort Bragg. Luckily my SPOT was seeing fit to track properly, so as long as he could see me moving he wasn’t too worried. We chatted for a few minutes while I fueled up, then I let him go when I pulled back out on the highway. I hadn’t been listening to music or anything on the trip so far, so it took me a while to realize I had lost audio. It happens from time to time, so I flipped my amp off and on, and when that didn’t work I restarted the Zumo. That fixed the problem, so I figured it was just a hiccup. When I lost audio again after my next phone call, I realized that the problem was related to my phone connectivity issue. It seems that my phone wasn’t completely disconnecting when the other person hung up, and since the phone wasn’t properly connected to the Zumo I didn’t have any of the control buttons I needed to end a call from my side. What I had to do to maintain audio for the rest of the trip was navigate through to the Zumo’s Bluetooth controls, drop the phone, then reconnect again.

My slow progress across Stewart’s Point Road, plus my swim break, together with the normal time spent procuring bonii, had steadily chipped away at my time cushion around the first checkpoint. I’d been keeping a faster pace through the redwoods until I got stuck in the slow parade of rental RVs. My original plan had me arriving at the checkpoint shortly before it opened, but by the time I photographed my bike in the Chandelier Drive-Through Tree it was evident that I was going to have to drop some bonii if I was going to make it to the checkpoint before it closed. The points for this drive-through tree were linked to a second tree, so I had to pick up the Meyer’s Flat tree or this stop would just be wasted time.

On the way to Meyer’s I made a quick stop at the Benbow Inn to count windows.  Hundreds of windows. Even considering we only had to count the panes on the second and third stories, it was still a daunting task. Minutes were ticking away. Matt pulled up around the same time and we tried hard to stay focused, but we both kept going cross-eyed after a few hundred. My brain just wouldn’t cooperate, and I had to keep moving or I was seriously risking missing the checkpoint window. I gave it my best guess at 316 panes (which incidentally was under the actual total by more than 100) and hit the road. I picked up the Hobbit Trail bonus and made quick work of the Meyer’s Tree, then gritted my teeth and passed right by several more bonii on my beeline to the checkpoint. Somewhere along the way it occurred to me that I should have taken a picture of the Inn so I could count the panes later when I wasn’t under such time constraints. Oh, well. Live and learn.

I tried to make a quick phone call on my way into Eureka, but I got their voicemail. I went through the steps to disconnect the Bluetooth, but when I reconnected my phone a minute later it was still connected to the voicemail message. I tried every trick in the book, but I could not get the phone to disconnect. I ended up having to find my way into the checkpoint without any audio instructions. I reached the checkpoint with about 10 minutes to spare, and was finally able to restore audio by restarting my phone. That was a bit more of a pain in the butt than I wanted to deal with, so I kept my phone calls to a minimum for the rest of the rally.

I no longer had time to bring my big Leg Two Rebound Plan to fruition, so I settled for choking down a nutrition bar while I programmed in the basic bonii through the second checkpoint. I was increasingly disappointed in my performance in the rally, but considering how close I’d just come to being time barred I was happy to still be in the game. There were a few bonii in rapid succession – the fishermen’s memorial and the Friend of the Dunes  building – and the World’s Tallest Totem Pole was just a short hop to the north.

On my way to the totem pole I hit reserve, so I opened up my fuel cell to transfer gas to my main tank. I had a little trouble locating the totem pole (it looked more like a telephone pole with a hat on), so by the time I arrived  my fuel gauge should have been showing about half a tank of gas. It wasn’t. I looked in my fuel cell – yep, still full. I opened and closed the transfer valve a few times – yep, I’d had it in the open position. Then I grabbed my  flashlight and peered into my main tank. Gas was happily bubbling up into the tank. Huh. Maybe I was just being impatient. I’d give it some more time before I got too worried. 

The road to the next bonus was a fun ride, but I started getting concerned when I was showing 45 miles on reserve and the fuel gauge still had not come up. This is officially way, way longer than the transfer should take, so I decided I’d better investigate further before I flat ran out of gas. This time I looked into my main tank first. Just as I suspected, no fuel was transferring. Then I took the cap off the fuel cell and gas started happily bubbling into the main tank. Ah-ha – I had a venting problem. A quick inspection uncovered an occluded vent hose, probably pinched when I was in a hurry to reinstall my tank the previous day. My first load of aux fuel had probably transferred better because the tank had only been half full to begin with. Pleased that this was an easy fix, I pushed on to the old bridge bonus. It took me a few tries to find the right pull-out from which to view the bridge, then it took me a few more minutes to come up with a way to get my flag in the picture, but ultimately I got a good picture and pushed on to Weaverville.

Alex Ciurczak and I pulled into Weaverville at the same time and got to work tracking down the town’s four spiral staircases. We found three right off the bat, and I agreed to model both flags while Alex manned both cameras. Now to find that fourth staircase… We walked up and down the street a little ways, with no luck. A lady had been sitting outside a nearby bar and she appeared to be laughing at us so, speculating that she may know something we didn’t, I headed toward the bar. I poked my head in the swinging doors and asked if anyone knew of a fourth staircase in town. There was quite a bit of laughter and discussion before someone confirmed that we were not the first to be inquiring after the mysterious missing staircase that day. The spokesman for the bunch stepped forward and said that for as long as he’d lived there, more than three decades and counting, \ there had only been two spiral staircases in town. Uh, two? “No, I’ve already found three staircases. One right next to us here, and two straight across the street.” Blank stare. “Huh. OK, three staircases, I guess. But yeah, there aren’t four. For sure.” That did not instill in me a great sense of confidence, so rather than blow this bonii by not turning in the four required pictures Alex and I decided to split up and scope out the town. A few laps later we were still empty handed. I’d even looked for anything sneaky like a sign with a spiral staircase on it, but without success. I wasn’t getting any younger so I decided it was time to move on, fourth staircase or no.

While I chugged towards Redding I took a closer look at rest of the second leg. Zumo was still showing my estimated arrival to be within the checkpoint window, but it was getting dark fast and I knew the deer would be out in force as I began climbing into the Eastern California mountains. I decided the wise choice would be to cut out a couple of the bonii that didn’t offer a very good point-to-mile ratio. They were way up in the twisties and not worth very much, so if I limited myself to the closest two mountain bonii I could book back to the interstate and hopefully hit the checkpoint with enough time to salvage my Leg Three. I quickly found the Sundial Bridge in Redding and snapped my picture with the little bit of remaining  daylight. From there it was off to Lassen Volcanic Park.

When I reached the front gate I found Alex there pondering the specifics of the bonus. We needed to get a picture at the Visitor’s Center, but the only one shown on the park map was on the complete opposite side of the park. Not a big deal, except the road was closed just ten miles into the park. We poured over maps and newspapers, but we couldn’t find anything definitive. The written bonus directions had been pretty accurate so far, so I found it hard to believe that they would send us this way if we couldn’t reach the intended bonus. We decided to go for it, and our leap of faith took us all of about a half mile down the road to a large and well-marked visitors station. After all the hemming and hawing, it took mere moments to get a picture of the seismograph building and get back on the road.

After Lassen I had planned on grabbing one more bonus up the road before heading for the checkpoint. After chatting for a minute, Alex decided he would be heading that way as well and we set off into the dark night. Alex got a bit ahead of me, so I was a little concerned when I came around a corner and saw him stopped in the road. He said he was OK, but he was second guessing his plan to head this way. We compared notes again, and we both decided to turn around and make a beeline for the checkpoint. It seemed like there were deer around every turn, and the best case scenario if we continued through the mountains would put us at the checkpoint around 1:30am, not including time for bonii procurement or venison related delays. With a bit of backtracking and some good, deer-free, high speed roads, I rolled into the checkpoint in Oroville about half way into the window. I had a Clif Bar and some water while I programmed my last leg. It was once again looking like a solid run at the base route was all I had time for, so I focused on getting as many points out of it as I could. I had to cut out a few stops in order to make it to the finish line in time, but at least now I could figure out which ones I wanted to scrap ahead of time rather than just dropping the last bonii on the leg as time ran out. I felt good and alert and had come to terms with my lackluster routing, so after throwing a couple handfuls of trail mix in my pocket I cranked up some tunes and got myself back on the road.

My next bonus was the Colusa Casino, where the bonus listing instructed us to score a chip from inside the casino. At the end of the listing it also said that if we had a gambling problem or just didn’t feel like going into the casino you could opt to pick up the points by taking a picture of your bike in front of the casino entrance. I took full advantage of that option and was in and out of there in under two minutes.

The next stop was an historical marker in Suisun City.  As I gathered my camera and flag, a cop drove by. As I put my stuff away and splashed a little water on my face out of my hydration system, he drove by again. Not wanting to invite trouble, I decided I’d better get moving. I pulled out of the parking lot and the cop appeared from around a corner. I was behaving myself, but I still wasn’t surprised to see his lights flash in my mirror. I pulled over immediately and came to a stop. The cop slowed down, crept past me, then sped around another corner and killed his lights. I’m pretty sure he was just testing to see how I reacted since I was skulking about downtown in the wee, wee hours of the morning. Fine by me – that was about the best kind of LEO interaction one could hope for.

By the time I reached the next bonus at the Livermore fountain, the sun was starting to come up. From there I nabbed the post office in Sunol, then  wrapped things up with one last stop at Corrie Glass. I wasn’t in great  shape to be doing complex mental mathematical calculations at this point,  but as near as I could tell my corrected mileage would be coming in at 20 30 miles under the 1,000 mark. I strongly considered doing a lap around town so I could hit 1k, but it was evident that I wasn’t going to be able to do that and still make it to the finish before penalty points started accruing 7am. If I’d had any intention of putting in for a Saddlesore I would have done it, but in the end I decided that it really wasn’t something I cared about too much.

For better or worse, I rolled across the finish line with time to spare. I  gathered up my fuel log, my pictures and my meager bonus submissions  and dragged myself to the scoring line. Mark was pretty gentle, probably  because I didn’t work him too hard and I was only about the third person to make their way to the scoring table. My laughable attempt at counting the windows at the Benbow Inn was a confirmed failure, but I was pleased to learn that there were actually only three spiral staircases in Weaverville so I would be receiving those points after all. I was disappointed in myself, to say the least, so I didn’t even bother to pay much attention to the value of the bonii I’d visited or my final score or anything. All I wanted was to go up to my room and go to bed, which was probably my first and only good routing decision of the entire rally. What’s done is done; I’d find out how awful I did at the banquet a few hours later.

My husband showed up at some point while I was sleeping, and later that afternoon we headed down to the banquet together. I’d forgotten our banquet tickets, and after retrieving those I realized I’d forgotten my raffle ticket as well. I only remembered that when they started giving away raffle prizes, so it was too late to run up and get it. I do remember my number being called, probably for something totally awesome. Figures. When Tom started awarding plaques, I was honestly surprised that I wasn’t last. I had a loose idea of what my third leg bonii were worth, I knew how much the Super Secret Bonus was worth, and I knew the value of the bonii I had bypassed on the second leg. Basically, I didn’t have any concept of what my score might be. Every time Tom called a name that wasn’t mine, I was happier. Then he got to the top ten and I started thinking I must have been  disqualified. I was floored to hear that I had finished in 6th place with 985 corrected miles and 4,562 points.

A lot of people have made comments about triumphing in the face of adversity and inspirational gook like that; I think of it more like, even a broken clock is right twice a day. I didn’t do anything right, at all. I made about every mistake in the book and I somehow finished in 6th in spite of my efforts, not because of them. This was a great rally for me because virtually every one of my previously unrealized rallying fears came to pass and I still made it through to the finish. I think my rally experience would have been more actively enjoyable if I had felt like I was giving it my best effort, even if I’d finished way down the ranks. I spent the entire day feeling like I was tripping over my own feet and the fact that I probably couldn’t have planned a much more successful route was total, unadulterated, dumb luck. But you know, sometimes you’ve got to take it where you can get it. I’ve learned some valuable lessons for next time, starting with not  changing anything on my bike in the weeks before the rally. The only thing I installed in the last month that didn’t give me any trouble were my new Kevlar shoe laces. (And incidentally, I never did end up using my heated gear.) The Zumo replacement was unavoidable, but I should have given it a more thorough run-through before I declared it rally-ready. The fuel cell leak was kind of a random occurrence after it had been leak free for weeks, but I should have updated my basic tool kit with the right size tools to work on the cell should the need arise.

On that note, I think it’s time to wrap things up and get ready for the Utah 1088 next weekend. All I have to do is install a couple new tires. What? Aw, come on – they’re just tires. What could possibly go wrong?

TBT – Made in America

*Just a little 2019 disclaimer: I’m not publishing Throw Back Travels in chronological order. Or alphabetical order. Or by total miles traveled. It’s actually a very complicated algorithm involving the number of screaming children multiplied by the number of barfing dogs, to a factor of the number of pages… It’s actually very complicated. It would take me a really long time to explain it. I just didn’t want you to think that I was just picking the easiest, most picture-intensive, dialog-light trips just because… OK, that’s exactly what I’m doing. And with that, here’s Made in America!

For our Summer 2006 riding season we decided to try something new. Every year the American Motorcyclist Association sponsors a series of contest rides/do-it-yourself tours. You sign up for the desired contest(s), and they provide you with a list of places, things, clues, names or whatever information that particular ride requires. The goal is to accumulate points by photographing your bike at as many of the locations as possible.  

The great thing about these rides is that we are remodeling our entire house, and the house simply refused to allow us our usual weeks-long sabbatical for a lengthy motorcycle adventure. This trip let us have a summer full of fun little weekend rides, and along the way we found great places we had never been before and beautiful roads we’ll surely ride again.

Sounds straight-forward enough, right? But keep paying attention, because this is the part where we usually lose people. The ride we chose was called “Made In America”, and here’s how it worked:

As you may or may not know, the US has been home to a great many motorcycle manufacturers over the years, most of them pre-WWII and most of them now defunct. Our goal was to find towns (or cities, neighborhoods, counties, municipalities of some sort) whose name is the same as that of any of the dozens of now-expired American motorcycle manufacturers on the list provided to us by the AMA.  

We had to get a picture of the bikes in front of a sign clearly indicating the town’s name, and the minimum needed to complete the challenge was 15. Got it?  Good, ’cause it gets a little weirder.  

As a special challenge, we needed to figure out 15 current motorcycles manufacturers from anywhere in the world that do not have a town in the US with the same name. For example, there is a town called Honda in California, so we could not use Honda.  With this challenge, we could get our picture of our motorcycles with any sign depicting the manufacturers name; it did not have to be a dealership sign or anything directly related to motorcycles. Are you still with me? If not, I’ll try to explain more as I go because now it’s time for pictures…

Apache Junction, Arizona
(Apache, 1907-1911)

Badger, California (Badger, Years Unknown)

Buckeye, California
(Buckeye, Years Unknown)

Buckeye, Arizona
(Buckeye, Years Unknown)

Camden, California (Camden, Years Unknown)

Columbia, California
(Columbia, Years Unknown)

Electra, California (Ghost Town)
(Electra, 1913)

Fowler, California
(Fowler Four, Years Unknown)

Franklin, California
(Franklin, Years Unknown)

Hawthorne, California
(Hawthorne, Years Unknown)

Keystone, California (Ghost Town)
(Keystone, Years Unknown)

Liberty, Arizona
(Liberty, Years Unknown)

Miami, Arizona
(Miami Cycle Co, Early 1900’s)

Paramount, California
(Paramount, Years Unknown)

Pennington, California
(Pennington Mfg, 1895-1900)

Pioneer, California
(Royal Pioneer, Years Unknown)

Wagner, California
(Wagner, 1904-?)

Williams, California
(Williams, 1910’s)

Williams, Arizona

Williams motorcycles 
featured a 3-cylinder 
engine which 
mounted inside the 

*2019: I’m going to write something here because this page is openly mocking my attempts to maintain any sort of reasonable formatting.

Wilsonia, California
(Wilson, Years Unknown)

2019 Addendum: Holy Crap. I have made a terrible error in judgement. It is actually WAY less labor-intensive to copy and paste huge amounts of text from our old webpages than it is to save & transfer like 83,000 pictures. Were there 83,000 pictures on this post? Because it FEELS like there were 83,000 pictures on this post. I know it’s easy on you to just scroll past all thes pictures, but you’ve got to cut me some slack here. I’m going to soldier on, in spite of what is sure to be a pretty epic save-and-transfer repetitive stress injury. In the future I may have to break longer trips up into multiple posts, because have you seen how many pages there are from our Arctic Circle trip? My brain hurts just thinking about it. Anyways, here we go with the You Can’t Get There Challenge. 83,001…

We hit the motorcycle shop motherload with that Kymco shop! This shop also has Royal Enfield and Gas Gas, but they don’t count  because there are towns with those words in their names.

In the end, we were two of only four people in the whole country who completed this challenge! Our plaques are proudly stacked up collecting dust with all the rest of our cherished possessions, but when the house is remodeled to the point where we can actually start hanging stuff on the walls, they will be prominently displayed somewhere.*

*2019 Addendum: These plaques went on to spend nearly a decade on the walls of our motorcycle shop, The Cyclesmiths in Kernville, CA. They were recently boxed up for our move to Sturgis and will once again be languishing away, collecting dust, and waiting for us to return from our trip and once again display them a place of honor.

TBT – Solo North America

As technology has blasted happily along, we’ve found ourselves going from Polaroids to plastic-paged photo albums, PowerPoint presentations to our own (somewhat primitive) website, to social media and, finally, to our newest and most dynamic blog. In the interest of consolidation, and with a solid nod to our adventuring roots, we’ve decided to start sharing some #ThrowBackTravels. We’ll be compiling many of our classic posts, pictures, and ride reports and sharing them with you here. Some will have little notes and updates added just to bring things current, some pictures will be fabulously remastered to bring out the very best that 2001 digital photography had to offer, but most content will remain hilariously unaltered. So kick back and enjoy our first installment: Wendy’s Solo North America Extravaganza!

Now, there are a few things to keep in mind as I recount this trip: 

First, I started the trip out with a 50cc Iron Butt ride (Coast-to-Coast in under 50 hours), so I didn’t take any pictures on that leg. Then I rode for a few weeks for the pure enjoyment of riding, so I didn’t take many pictures on that portion of the ride, either. For that reason, this section will be somewhat shorter that the others with a higher story-to-picture ratio.

Bearing that in mind, the story begins… As I mentioned, my trip began with a 50cc Iron Butt ride. Riding my Yamaha FZ1, I left Pismo Beach on May 26, 2004, and arrived in Savannah, Georgia 47 hours and 36 minutes later (including all stops and about 5 1/2 hours of sleep).

Why Savannah?  It’s not the straightest or the shortest route by any means, but I was going to spend the next few days with friends in Augusta, Georgia, and Savannah is the closest beach town to Augusta. My first two days included three concurrent Iron Butt rides, and upon completion of my 50cc at 2,612 miles, I continued on to Augusta for a total of 2,738 miles in under 50 hours. Then I slept for about two days.  My only photographic memento of the ride is of my now-classic annual fingerless glove tan.

After the Iron Butt and a few days of recovery, I basically just set out to wander. I headed north, taking slow meandering back roads through South Carolina and up the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I took in museums and stopped often at historical sites and generally relaxed and enjoyed myself. There were only a handful of things that I specifically wanted to see, but beyond that I had no plans and no timeline.

I found out pretty quickly that my”Guide to Free Campgrounds” book was actually just a random collection of parks and such around the country, most of which had very large “NO CAMPING” signs posted prominently at their perimeter. The upside is that New England states are so small that even though the next campground is half way across the map page, it’s only really like 8 miles away. Especially when you are in Delaware.

The one place I REALLY wanted to see in Philadelphia was the Mutter Museum. These being pre-Zumo days, I had printed out maps with thorough directions to the museum. Unfortunately, I still managed to get lost (I have a very good internal compass, but I found Philadelphia to be a difficult town to navigate). I found myself in a neighborhood where girls riding solo on motorcycles probably don’t want to be, and I decided to blow all the stops signs on my way back to the interstate after a group of decidedly unfriendly-looking guys descended on me while I was stopped at a traffic light. I finally gave up on finding the museum, although I was very disappointed at having to do so. Now that I have Zumo, I have a good reason to go back to Pennsylvania!

I do have to say that I was very impressed with the generally high level of courtesy that I experienced in Pennsylvania (and not just in the City of Brotherly Love!) I stopped several times to ask people for directions or consult my map, and several times I had folks say “Just follow me; I’ll take you to…” where ever I was headed.  I met tons of nice bikers who shared with me the best local rides and eats. I rode from Philadelphia all the way across Pennsylvania to the Ohio border and back again, all on little roads suggested to me to strangers. I had a great time and really enjoyed the wonderful, friendly atmosphere during my days there.

OK, so far my post-Iron Butt trip has taken me all the way to Pennsylvania. After my PA loop, I meandered north through New Jersey and New York before I cut over into Vermont. And like most people, I found Vermont to be absolutely gorgeous!

This was an evening stop in Lake Saint Catherine, Vermont. The riding was great, the roads were well maintained, and the constant rain kept everything nice and green. (Well, you can’t win ’em all, so sometimes you just have to look on the bright side.)

Leaving Vermont, I headed back south across Massachusetts and through Connecticut.  I was pleasantly surprised to find how much I enjoyed riding through Connecticut; the roads were exceedingly well maintained, and at every turn there was another beautiful back road beckoning to me. And for the first time on my trip, it seemed, there was no such thing as getting lost – just a consistently thrilling series of random turns and towns until eventually (sadly) I bumped into an interstate and moved on into Rhode Island, through Boston and on to New Hampshire.

Shortly after my return, I wrote a story about this trip for a “Great Rides” contest. The picture to the left is one of several that accompanied the story and assisted in netting me a second-place win. (I was actually really happy that I won second place; first prize was a dual sport adventure tour around Arizona, but I won about $1000 worth of FirstGear riding gear that I still use nearly every day. I think I got the better end of that bargain!)

You know how sometimes there are things that seem like a good idea when you first wake up, and then turn out to be completely goofy and ridiculous later after your brain kicks in? Well, I like to commemorate those moments and share them with the world at the expense of my dignity. (See, I don’t just post pictures that embarrass my husband – I’m right there with him!)

After turning back to the north and riding through the White Mountains of New Hampshire, I finished my Eastward ride at the coast of Maine. The first thing I did, of course, was eat a big ol’ lobster. Then I camped at the intersections of Highway 1 and 101 – the East Coast equivalent to my Pismo Beach home, also at Highways 1 and 101.

From there I made a slow coastal trek up to Bar Harbor, where I inquired about taking a ferry to Nova Scotia.  Even  though it was the off-season, the  trip would still set me back $100  each way – $45 for me, $55 for my bike – and I would have to wait until the following day to catch the next boat. After some quick math, I calculated that they were off their gourds and decided to continue my trip sans ocean-crossing. Of course, the same trip today* would cost me about $165 each way, so in retrospect maybe I should have seized the opportunity… In any event, that’s a pretty hefty investment for a boat ride when I’m taking a trip for the joy of motorcycle riding!

*And that was “today” as of the previous, PowerPoint-to-Website remastering of this tale. As of 2019, I’m sure the price tag is nearly twice that. In fact, I’m almost positive, based on the last time I took that ferry. Totally worth it! 😉

Anyhow, the riding along the coast of Maine was so beautiful, I didn’t feel like I had made much of a sacrifice.

Bar Harbor is a quaint little fishing town and a must-see stop if you find that your wardrobe is lacking in items that say “Maine” or display picture lobsters or lighthouses. Finding my supply of those items to be more than sufficient, I turned Northwest and headed into Quebec.

After spending an evening making my way along dirt roads and communing with deer, moose and elk, I arrived in the Canadian Provence of Quebec. I was surprised by the European feel of so many of the little towns, with crooked cobblestone streets and cozy little cottages.

I have to admit, Quebec was also something of a culture shock. I had never been to  Canada before, and I expected there to be multi-lingual signage across the French-Canadian Provinces. There wasn’t. EVERYTHING was in French – No English at all. Not on road signs or billboards, not even at gas stations or restaurants. I had some trouble with my bank card at one of the gas stations, and no one there spoke (or was willing to speak) English to sort out the trouble. Wow! It was a very interesting place to visit, but next time I’ll have to be better prepared!

It was right about the time I crossed into Ontario that I was hit with about the worst weather I’ve ever ridden in*.  The kind of weather where all you want in the world is to pull over, but you don’t because no one else on the road can see anything either and it’s only a matter of time before some wayward big rig takes you out. Amazingly, I caught up to a couple other hapless bikers muscling through the storm, and together we pushed on for several hours until we reached a little town where I could pick up a hotel room and wring myself out.

*Worst weather as of 2004. They don’t call me Hurricane Crockett for nuthin’! And by “they” I mean Mike, and like three other people. But still… Four people counts as “they”, and riding through three hurricanes and a tornado has definitely upped my threshold of “worst weather”.

The following day, with all of my gear still saturated and freezing, I tracked down a place known only as “The Shop”. The Shop is a Harley/Honda/Farm Implement dealer in the bustling little metropolis of Lively, Ontario. They warmed me up with plenty of free coffee and asked all about my trip. Then I purchased a new pair of dry waterproof winter gloves (1/3 off, because only pansies like me wear heavy winter gloves in balmy June weather) and I was getting ready to leave when one of the employees presented me with a gift. It was a Canadian goose, intricately created out of bark and twigs. He said he wanted to make sure that they had made a good impression on behalf of Ontario and Canada, and that the goose would bring me good luck for the remainder of the trip.  

What a great bunch of people!  The goose is still one of my cherished mementos, and it has continued to bring me luck on my many subsequent adventures.

I heard that the Central Canadian Provinces are pretty much the same as the Plains States, so I figured since the ride would be the same either way, I would head back to the US and pick up the last couple states that I had yet to visit by motorcycle. I crossed the border at Sault Ste. Marie and rode around the edge of Lake Michigan for a while. I was amazed at the vastness of the Great Lakes; it was like looking out over the ocean. I also learned that when people talk about “Pasties” in Michigan, they probably aren’t talking about the same thing that we’re talking about when we say “Pasties” in California.  Boy, THAT made for a couple of awkward conversations…

A few nights later I was in Ironwood, Wisconsin, and after partaking of the most mouthwatering cheese curds in the world, I settled in for the night at a local campground. Now granted I wasn’t riding at the time, which was a bonus, but that night I was hit by a storm that made the one in Canada look like a light mist.  My tent was blowing away with me in it, and I had to pull my shoelaces out of my boots in the middle of the night to tie my tent posts together. I didn’t think that would keep them from blowing away, but I figured at least that way I would only have to look for one bunch of things tied together rather than 12 little pieces scattered all over the place. The thunder was so loud and constant that my ears were ringing well into the morning. The power was off for as far as I could see, and if a tornado warning siren had gone off I don’t think I would have even heard it. Having no place to go, all I could do was ride it out and hope for the best.

In the morning, I found that the wind had been so ferocious blowing against my bike that the force actually made a crack right down the middle of my Big Foot. (A Big Foot is a big plastic foot, about 1/4″ thick, placed under your kickstand to keep it from sinking into soft dirt.) I can’t even imagine the amount of force it took to cause that to crack, but I know what I went through that night and was glad that I would at least have an impressive souvenir of the storm.

After wandering across Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota (where I passed through Rugby, the geographical center of North America), and the better park of Montana, I found myself once again facing off with the weather.I believe it was right about Cut Bank, Montana – the self-proclaimed “Coldest Spot in the US” – that the slushy snow set it. Since it obviously was not in the cards for me to be warm or dry on any portion of this trip, I just zipped up my rain gear and kept right on going.

Eventually I climbed above the clouds and out of the wet, although a little slush is all it takes to spend the rest of the day freezing. It was worth it, though. Waterfalls just aren’t waterfalls without a little rain to invigorate things. Glacier National Park was an amazing place to visit, and I would do it again in a second – rain, snow or otherwise!

Self portrait in Glacier National Park.  Funny, it doesn’t LOOK freezing…

Glacier National Park is a hard place to leave, but eventually I did have to move on. I crossed a tiny bit of Idaho before picking up the rain again in Washington. At this point I’m soaked, my gear is soaked, my maps are soaked – I basically have stopped deluding myself into believing that I will ever dry out.

No trouble. Pretty is pretty, even when it’s wet, and I continued to have a great time even as I was getting closer to home.

A long road across Eastern Washington. (Another of the pictures  accompanying my Great Rides submission.)

Ooh!  Look at the snow way up there on Mount Rainier!

…And I’m sure you’ve all guessed by now that it wasn’t long before I was IN that snow, way off in the distance. Luckily in was mid-week and there was no other traffic, so I took my time and traveled over the icy road as safely as possible. (I suppose I should count myself lucky; it’s probably about 120 degrees in Tucson right about now.)

As I descended the hill, the iciness was rapidly eliminated and I was left with the quite, solitary beauty that even just a couple inches of snow seems to bring.

Here’s the stuff that makes it all worth while! Remember what I said about needing rain in order to see the truly beautiful waterfalls? Mike and I returned to Mount Rainier together the following August, and there wasn’t a single waterfall to be found. Simply Amazing!

In case you were confused… This sign actually points out Mt. Saint Helens  from a scenic overlook.

After three weeks, I’m back on the Pacific Coast. I followed the Pacific Coast Highway from Astoria, Oregon all the way home to Pismo Beach.

Nothing says “Successful Road Trip” like happening upon something like this! I was riding through Port Orford, Oregon when I saw a tiny sign that read “Antique Motorcycle Museum”. I pulled into the parking lot to find that the museum was already closed for the day. The proprietor was still there, though, and he invited me in to get out of the rain and take a private tour. Sometimes you just get lucky!

And here we are, on the last day of my journey. Notice all that stuff… What’s it called? Oh, yeah – Sunshine. Doesn’t that just figure.

With the usual mixed emotions, I arrived home almost a month after my journey began. 9,317 miles, nearly all of it back roads and bad weather (not counting the Iron Butt). It’s always good to be home, but then again, it’s always good to be on the road. I guess as long as I’m here, I may as well wash my bike…

And with that, I have now ridden my faithful FZ1 in all of the Lower 48 States (plus some bits of Canada here and there). Not too bad, for a girl! (or at least that’s what I hear…)

Here I am celebrating my return at the Pismo Beach Pier, with a particularly vicious case of Helmet Hair. See? See? Mike does it to me, too, when he’s the one holding the camera!

The states I passed through on this trip are, in order: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, (Quebec), (Ontario), Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.  

I have now ridden in every state except Hawaii (I’ve been to Hawaii, I just didn’t ride when I was there since I was only about 11 at the time.)  

As I mentioned, I have a lot more stories than pictures on this ride, but I love to share what I have so feel free to ask! Thank you once again for sharing in my adventures!

-Wendy, circa 2004