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Day 14
June 18th, 2006
Motel 6                                                                                                 
San Luis Obispo, California   

                                                     
 
Just as in years past, early morning fog was rolling in off the coast, blanketing San Luis in a film of gray mist.  I quietly loaded the 1300, I didn't want to wake up poor Martin who had 2 long meetings to look forward today.  "Well somebody's gotta do it, as long as it ain't ME."  I've been retired over a year now, and adjusted quite well to life without the fire department.  Sure I miss the excitement and the people, but other things in my life have moved in to replace it.  If for some reason I had to go back to work, I'd have a hard time.  I could do it, we all do what we have to do at times, but it wouldn't be easy for a man whose used to doing to what he wanted.

I think folks go in a comfort zone, and get stuck in a "rut."  I believe you have to break out of it to live a full life.  Go to work, come home, rub the kids, eat, pass out in front of the TV each evening.  Riding a motorcycle across America, solo, certainly qualifies as a means out of Rutville.  Not always easy, lots of uncertainty, but NEVER boring, I can't measure how it has enriched my life the last few years.  

Take a rat, put him in a cage, with no interaction with the outside world, and see how long he lasts.

If you long to ride cross country, but talk yourself out of it by, "I don't like being by myself, I get nervous when I'm too far from home, I might get wet, it gets too hot, what if I have a breakdown, and the list goes on- just go do it.  All of those things might happen, and all on the same day, but so WHAT?"  Overcoming those things will make you better, you will walk in some cafe in podunk and folks will feel your confidence in the air, anything bad I might get on the road is far exceeded by the enjoyment.

I left the key card on the desk and geared up.  "Maid will take care of it."  After 4 days in California, and a few hundred miles, it was time to get serious again.  I'll be riding more miles today, then the previous 5 combined.  Like I said, I've been flower sniffing and checking things out, but now it was time to turn it up a notch.

I left San Luis around 6 am and headed south on the 101.  It was only 48 degrees but I stuck it out with nothing extra under the Roadcrafter.  "Going to warm up very quickly where I'm goin."  The misty fog formed droplets on the windscreen. 

At 6:31 am I turned east on SR 166 and headed for home.  My direction for the next 2500 miles, with a few north-south jaunts tossed in to keep me honest.  I always note the time and place when I make the definitive turn for home.  SR 166 is known as the Cuyama Valley Road.  I first rode it in 2001.  Cuyama is a great road.  Nice scenery and good leaning, as it takes you near the La Panza Range and across the Carrizo Plains.  
I sped pass green hills and golden valleys as I made my way to the desert and out to Arizona.  My goal for today is Kingman.  There is a old section of Route 66 there, that they say is a time capsule, so going to check it out.

When I was growing up in the late 50s and 60s, Route 66 was a legend.  It was the road that took a guy to the promised land.  Thousands used it to take them to a new life, or just on a vacation.   A whole culture grew up around it.  

I use to hear my dad talk about it, (though he was never on it) "They have a road that takes you all the way to Los Angeles, called Route 66."   "Can we ride it oneday?"  I use to ask.  He would put me off with kind words to let me down easy.  We were not poor by any means, but a 2 week family vacation to Disneyland, was NOT in the Boutin family house of cards.

Now I can ride it anytime I want to.  Just load up and go.  I thought about that while I rode through the great scenery on the Cuyama.  I crisscrossed over the river a few times, and carved the hillsides in a precise, even handed manner.  Traffic was non existent, but I did fight a bright Eastern sun.





















                       The scene along the Cuyama Valley Road

I rode out of the coast fog soon after taking the Cuyama, the clouds kept from following me by the hills.  The highway split the Carrizo Plains and the Sierra Madre Mountains, "what a great way to spend the morning, I wonder how Martin's meeting is going?"  I thought.

A CHP cruiser was out with a guy in white pick up truck, they were on a turnout near the river bank.

The heat was building, by the time I came to the con store in Maricopa it was 90.  I took out my peanut butter and sat in the shade of the building on the west side.  I called home and sent Chris a text.  A 96 ST 1100 with a Givi tail trunk went by, heading west on 166.  Another rider that knows where all the best roads are.   He waved, I was disappointed he didn't stop.  It was a good break.  I stopped at the same store in 2001.

SR 166 took me past miles of irrigated farmland.  The sprinklers shooting water high in the air making rainbows.  Migrant workers were busy in the fields, and I passed several truck loads transporting workers between fields.

Soon the fun was over.  I came out on SR 14, a interstate type of road to hook up with I-40.  I hate I-40, but there is no other way to get east in this part of the country.  I reluctantly took my medicine, and proceeded north.

The map indicated I could cut through Edwards AFB to I-40 and safe a few miles, but I didn't know if using the base as a short cut would fly with some Long Rider just out for a ride.  Instead of finding out at the gate, I just kept going.
  
I went past the windmill farm near Barstow.  Things were spinning nicely.

Barstow sits on the edge of the Mojave baking in the desert sun.  By now it was 105 degrees and rising.  Hot doesn't much bother me, because I hate being cold so much.  I come for a hot place and train and ride everyday in the heat and humidity of South Alabama.  I don't notice the desert till around 110 which equals about 95 in South Alabama.

I thought about a Prozac pill when I saw a sign near Barstow, "Kingman 200 miles."  "Man that sucks, I better get something to eat and drink before going any further, probably not much between here and there."

I took the Newberry exit and topped off the gas tank, then went inside for something to eat.  The store had a bar and grill, with a Mexican lady doing short orders.  I stepped up and ordered-

" uno pollo sandwich" 

"uno?""

"si, cuantos?'

"5.85"

In this part of the country Spanish and English are beginning to co mingle.  If I was raising a child here, I'd verse the youngster in both languages, making him fluent early on.  It will only help him in the long run.

It was a quick lunch.  The only thing I did was eat.  "No need to put off I-40 any longer."  I mounted back, and headed east.

The entrance ramp was uphill to the roadway, and when I began to merge the hot blast hit me.  Temp was 107 and hot air off the road was uncomfortable, forcing me to flip the shield of the Arai down.  I long had the windscreen low to move as much as possible around me.
  
It was June in the Mojave, suppose to be hot.  I kept my promise to the Lord for getting me out of the cold, and rainy Montana Mountains that morning, that now seems so long ago.  "See God I'm not fussing about the heat, it feels much better than that cold rain in Montana.

The land was nothing but parched as I tried to get out of California.  I kept an eye on the temp gauge, but it never budged off 3 bars, despite the fact I was running 90 mph and uphill at times.  

In the 220 miles to Kingman I failed to see a single rider, but I didn't think much about that.  I've been across the desert several times, and know how to do it.  The best advice I can give, is stay covered up.  Your riding gear is your best friend.  It will insulate the hot air of the sun, road, and motor away from you.  Resist the tendency to strip down to tank top and shirt t shirts.  Look at the folks who live here.  They wear sleeves and big hats, the Bedouins do the same- they cross the desert in cloaks.

Alabama is hot, I'm use to it, but what is different out here is the intensity of the UV rays.  We have haze and clouds back home, but here the thin air and zero cloud cover allow the rays to come at you unhindered.  It will roast you quickly.

I rode on in the searing heat, passing cars by the hundreds, the heat off the 18 wheelers I came around just another element to factor in.  I focused on Kingman, ignoring everything in between.

On the RT I can set the cruise and extend my right arm, and move air through the vents.  On the Honda I can only do that with the left.
Within a span of 50 miles I saw 2 trucks towing campers overheated on the shoulder, but not to worry about the Honda.  If you looked at my temp gauge you would have thought we were in New York on a October day.

By the time I reached the caldron known as Needles, it was 115 degrees.  I left I-40 at a McDonalds exit.  I had to scan the road surface for slick oily spots, because the brutal heat was literally melting tar snakes, and oil based road patches.

Before going inside I put my skid plate on the ground to make sure the ST stayed upright. 

It was so hot the zipper on the Roadcrafter was hot to the touch, and the coins in my pocket felt like bbq briquettes.  No kidding.

I ordered a drink and 2 oatmeal cookies and was sitting it out in a booth when a family of 3 came in with a cat in a carrier.  Father, mother, and a daughter about 13 yrs old.  Each a little over weight, fair complexions with sunburn, and frayed clothes.  They were driving a  NON air conditioned U Haul west.  They were from Wisconsin.  

These folks got sunburned inside the truck.  They wore shorts, tank tops, and had wet rags around their necks.  They gave new definitions to the term "red neck."  The girl's legs looked as if she  hadjust escaped a lobster boil they were so red.  I studied them intently as they came in.  I felt sorry for them.  It must have been brutal inside that U Haul. 

"sir you'll hafta to take the cat outside"

"but he'll die out there"  He was right.

"you can put him in the shade of the building".  Where it was only 105 instead of 115.  I wanted to tell the manager to give them a break because they certainly looked like they needed it.

He obeyed and came back in.  "so just how hot is IT?"  "I dunno but its well over 100," the manager said.   I knew how it was, but stayed quiet.  If I had told them it was 115 they might fold. 
 
Two managers were sitting at a nearby table interviewing prospective employees.  One of them spoke to me. 

"so how ya doing?"

"I'm good , but didja check those 3 Yankees in the back?  They don't look so hot, they're subject to pass out any minute, and top it off y'all won't let em bring the cat in."

"I know, but we have rules"

I had all the fun I could take in one McDonalds so suited up.  My Reese piece bag was now just one big wad.  I took it out of the Moto Fizz and threw it away.  "Man and I like Reese Pieces too."

When I turned the key on the 1300 the temp gauge was FLASHING 128.  I'd never seen it flash before.  I guess that meant it was pegged out and couldn't go any higher. 

I returned to finish up I-40.  For some reason the roadway dips south and then back north at the state line.  That little deal adds about 30 miles.
When I finally arrived in Kingman I left I-40 trailing Historic 66 markers.  The old route is coming back to life and well marked by the now familiar brown sign.

Old Kingman looked sad, as most of the money is now out near I-40.  

I took a break in a Chevron con store after topping off the tank.  Temp was still 102 degrees.  I parked the ST in the shade of a sign and went inside.

The gatorade I washed down tasted good.  A few tables were near the front window and I went there to sit down.  

I was looking forward to riding old 66.  I never got the chance in the old days, but better late then never.  All morning I'd been trying to imagine what it must have been like to ride cross country in a 50s era car.  It was beyond my comprehension.

I had the option of spending the night in Kingman, but Free told me Seligman was unique.  I was only 60 miles away, and I love late afternoon rides, so without much internal debate I motored on
.
Old Route 66 was easy to find out of Kingman and I was on the "Mother Road" proper in just a few minutes.  Route 66 is burned in the mind of many Americans my age.  The old TV show, the promise of adventure, the lure of the unknown, all come to mind.  A 2 lane ribbon from LA to Chicago, tying together thousands of towns and people that lived along the course.

Old motels and cafes dotted the road.  Many were closed down, but a few were still operational.























                           Old Motels and cafes can still be found on Route 66

In the old days, this was the way west.  It will go down in history just as the Santa Fe, Chisholm and Oregon Trails have.  The interstates were suppose to bring us together, make the nation smaller.  I think they have had the opposite effect.  A guy can now ride cross country, and not see a thing.  Only hitting the brakes for gas.  Only a select few have the patience for such back road riding as 66.

The temp was 101, as I spin across the desert.  Not much to see, rock formations, weeds, and sand.  Tumbleweeds shot across the bow of the 1300 several times, and I even passed a dirt devil a few feet from the roadway. (you can see it in the video)

It was late afternoon when I paid my respects to the Hackberry General Store.  An old gas station now converted into Route 66 souvenir shop.  The store is decorated inside and out with old memorabilia, some of which brought back lots of memories.




















 
             The Hackberry General Store.  Note the old fashioned
              drink machines.

  
Several old drink boxes line the outside wall, and I could tell you a story about each of them.  I remembered putting a dime in and pulling the drink out by the neck.
 
I stepped inside to a chorus of 60s music, with walls and shelves of trinkets.  If it had anything to do with 66, you could find it here.























                                   Inside the Hackberry General Store

A man named John was the owner/operator and I had a short conversation with him.  He said he bought the store about 8 years ago, and collected most of the stuff that you see.  I drank an old fashioned bottled Coke, and looked out the windows.  A car rode by every 15 minutes, but in the old days a steady stream came and went.   Now only the curious stop in Hackberry, or those with time on their hands, which few people have nowdays, including Long Riders.

I'm happy to report Route 66 is under revitalization.  About 80% of the old route has been found and marked.  I-40 overlaps much of it, and in the northern areas many sections are nothing but urban sprawl, but through Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona, hundreds of miles are still intact.  I plan to ride more sections in future tours.

I left Hackberry for the last 40 or so miles to Seligman.  There wasn't much to see, and I settled the Honda on 80 mph.  I over took a long freight train, and rode abreast with the engine for several miles.  

I passed a series of signs 10 miles west of Seligman:

"a man -a miss"

"a car- a curve"

"he kisses the miss"

"misses the curve"

Seligman, Arizona looks much like it did in the 1960s.  Route 66 forms Main Street and forges it way right the through the business district.  Local motels with 66 in the name compete fiercely for the wayfarers that find their way off I-40.  I'm guessing, but in the 50s Chicago to LA probably took 4 days on 66.  

In the evenings folks back then found one of the towns along the way to over night, and the motels and diners were prosperous.  Every town had one or 2 car hop places, and a drive in theatre for those who wanted to spend the evening with a movie before getting back on the road the next day.  I'm not saying those were the good old days, because these days are good, but there is a nostalgia about it.  I wish I had a time machine.  I would transport me and the Honda back to 1957 for a cross country ride.  How neat it would be to do that, and still know what I know now.

A local police cruiser watched me ride by when I came down Main Street.  One business had a car with a James Dean image standing by it.  I was looking for the KOA, and found it on the east side of town.

In exchange for 15 dollars I had a place to sleep with all the conveniences I could ask for.  I took the 1300 around the loop and saw a Yamaha Road Star, so took the site next door.

The rider was already set up.  I called over to him-

"Have a good ride today?"

"yes, how about you?

"couldn't be better, alot of fun today."

The temp was still in the 90s, but didn't feel hot thanks to the low humidity.  I know the desert to be cool at night, and looked forward to a good nights sleep.

After setting up camp I went back into town for something to eat.

"wanna ride back into town for something to eat?"

"no thanks, gonna cook something here."

On the way to eat I stopped at a drive in called the Sno-Cap, which presently is mostly a shrine to the Mother Road.  The rear of the store had a row of classic cars and other trinkets.  The owner was a man named Juan, but his mother told me was he already gone for the day.  
The drive in looked classic in the fading sun of the desert, and for a instant I thought it very well could be 1957.






















                      "for a instant I thought it could be 1957"

Because Seligman has easy access to I-40 the cafes and motels here do ok.  I ate supper at a place called the Road Kill cafe.  I had baked chicken and potato.  The food was good.  I put notes in the Axim and called home. 

A family of 3 from California took the table next to me.  And unlike the folks from Wisconsin they weren't sunburned.  They were staying in motel a few blocks away.

The father said-

"beautiful bike you have"

"thanks"

"riding east or west?"  He asked.

"east, on the way home"

He looked wistfully at me.  I think all men have a sense of adventure.  Of wanting to live life a little on the edge, doing things, meeting people and seeing places.  Being free of responsibility and other ties.  Most of us never get to sample those feelings, because other things get in the way.  I'm not saying forget your obligations, but a guy needs time to his self to be a cowboy, in our DNA to roam
.
It was almost dark when I made it back to the tent ending a 521 mile day.  As the desert night swept down, I was treated to celestial unlike any I'd ever seen.  The clear, treeless, desert sky afforded a unlimited view of the heavens.  The night grows very dark far away from any cities.  There was no need for the rain flap on the Eureka, and I had a nice view of the stars through the mesh overhead.  It was amazing.  Millions of light pinpoints were staring at me.  What a great night.  I slept well in the cool desert air.  






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