RideAbout65.4

RideAbout65 is Done but not Finished – Many Buckets left to Empty!

The basic premise of RideAbout65 (see About RideAbout) was to ride my motorcycle to the four corners of the U.S. and perhaps a little beyond in the case of Nova Scotia. I decided that I would split the travel into four separate solo motorcycle trips so as to make the scheduling a little easier to sell to family and clients. Also, the separate trips allowed for a more relaxed schedule for each trip.  With the completion of the Four Corners I decided to press on with more buckets.  The Four Corners trips can be reviewed at Table of Contents Numbers 2 through 5.  The ride to Devils Tower (Table of Contents Number 1) was a warm-up for the Four Corners Series.

The next bucket emptied was to attend Rolling Thunder – it exceeded my expectations in so many ways – read about it at Table of Contents Number 6.

The upcoming buckets yet to be emptied are a partial Route 66 ride and meet-up with old friends in California for the First Annual Leo Lake Memorial Ride up the Pacific Coast Highway and surrounding area.

So as I mentioned in the title of this post – This is not the end of the blog…there are still many buckets left to empty!

 

Find Yourself

Buckets Emptied:

Devils Tower – ☑

Four-Corners – ☑

Rolling Thunder – ☑

 

RideAbout65.4 – Day 1 – Home to Forrest City, Arkansas

Total distance: 255.22 mi
Download file: Day-1.gpx

 

Today’s Mileage: 255 miles

Total Trip Mileage so far: 255 miles

 

This first post will be sort of short as I have just gotten started.  Since I have left a day late so I could go to Ohio Dave’s birthday party on Sunday in Troy, OH – I decided to do some interstate to get myself caught up a bit.  I headed first to Lexington, TN for a visit with brother-in-law Tommy and a cup of coffee.  The down to Jackson for a quick visit with Tom & Craig…and more coffee.  Then to Memphis so I could cross the Mississippi River and finally into Forrest City, AR for the night.

Tomorrow I will head off into the wilderness of Arkansas to look for good back roads.

 

 

RideAbout65.4 – Day 2 – Forrest City to Fort Smith via the “Pig Trail”

Total distance: 323.4 mi
Download file: Day-2.gpx

 

Today’s Mileage: 323 miles

Total Trip Mileage so far: 579 miles

 

Day 2 and it is off to find some back roads in Arkansas – I had read that there was a road called the “Pig Trail” that was supposedly the Arkansas equivalent of Tennessee’s Tail of the Dragon.  Since the Pig Trail runs north and south and starts up around Harrison, I cut cross country to the north west to the start of it.  When I finished it looked like I would be in position to spend the night at Fort Smith.  It was a nice, pleasant ride over to Harrison although the faint tones of banjo music seemed to get louder as I neared the start of the Pig Trail (Hwy 23).   The Pig Trail was certainly a nice road and extreme scenic with very little traffic…but equivalent to TofD?  Nope, nowhere near as intense – more of a relaxed version.   But it was certainly a good start to the trip and gave me a chance to see how the KTM handled a “Ducati” road.  Mr KTM handled it just fine, its a keeper.

It was late when I finished up so I jumped on I-40 for a few miles to get into Fort Smith for the night.  I am thinking that this trip I will make use of occasional stretches of interstate to avoid taking extra hours just to stay on backroads – that will give me more time for the good stuff.  And as I head west, even the back roads are straight and flat in places.

Tomorrow I plan a return visit to the Seaba Station Motorcycle Museum near Chandler, OK and to ride a section of old Route 66.

 

 

RideAbout65.4 – Day 3 – Fort Smith to Clinton, OK – Seaba Station Motorcycle Museum & Route 66

Total distance: 310.2 mi
Download file: Day-3.gpx

 

Today’s Mileage: 310 miles

Total Trip Mileage so far: 889 miles

 

I woke up this morning to the sounds of thunder and rain.  I waited around and checked the radar to see if it was going to end anyway soon…it wasn’t.  So today would be a good test of the new KTM’s rain manners.  Since it was raining so hard and my Shoei flip up helmet is not good in the rain (fogging, etc), I altered my route to Seaba to a run down the interstate and then cut over to Chandler.  It is much easier on me in the rain if I don’t have stops and starts and side traffic.  The KTM with the touring windshield definitely has better airflow and protection in the rain than the Ducati, so that is a plus.

I rain out of the steady rain in about 50 miles, then about 25 miles of showers/sprinkles and then sunshine.  By the time I reached Seaba it was a very nice day.  Seaba had not changed much and the proprietor was as friendly as ever.  It was busy this day, a large group of French tourists on a Route 66 expedition and several groups of others.  I met and chatted with a retired professor and Route 66 enthusiast from Portland on a Harley who was doing the Route from Chicago out to a big Route 66 gathering in Arizona.  Turns out we would end up at the same Hampton in Clinton that evening.

Seaba has a nice motorcycle museum and one bike in particular that was interesting to me was a 6-days MZ that had only 10 km on the odometer.  The story was that it was a bike taken to the 6-Days for spares but was never used – now in a museum complete and untouched.

I hung around a while looking at the bikes and talking – a very pleasant hour or two.  Next was to head up Route 66 and end up at Clinton, Ok for the night.  For a while 66 was easy to follow, then around Oklahoma City it really got confusing, I spent probably an hour or so trying to pick it up in Oklahoma City, finally I jumped on I-40 since I knew it ran parallel more or less.  A few miles out of town I got off and found it again.  In this area the old road was really in bad shape – scenic but bumpy, full of pot holes and bad pavement repairs.  I then lost it again when I missed a turn and the road turned into an on ramp to I-40.  I made use of the KTM’s off-road abilities and rode across a field to get back on the road in the opposite direction to avoid going miles out of my way down I-40.  The bike worked just fine across the field and a couple of ditches – an adventure bike might not be a real dirt bike but the ground clearance and off-road handling are just right for such a occasion as this.

This section of Route 66 is pretty desolate actually and grown up with trees and bushes on either side – if the pavement was better it would be a really nice road as it has lots of nice up and down hills and curves.  You almost forget that I-40 is less than a mile away and in some sections only 500 feet or so away.

Rolled into Clinton and met up with my new friend.  We talked for a while and exchanged contact info.  The next day he would continue on Route 66 and I would head north west toward Taos with a likely stop in between  for the night at Clayton, NM.  Today was a great day!

 

 

RideAbout65.4 – Day 4 – Clinton, OK to Clayton, NM

Total distance: 283.21 mi
Download file: Day-4.gpx

 

Today’s Mileage: 283 miles

Total Trip Mileage so far: 1172 miles

 

This route from Clinton to Clayton is a lot better than the more northern routes across Kansas, etc.  There are some rolling hills and a few curves along with a good bit of greenery.  The wind is present but not in way it is further north – quite tolerable.  I am starting to see a lot of bikes returning from Sturgis, mostly Harley’s of course.  Talked to one returnee at a gas station and it turned out he had been in the air force about the same time as I and worked as a C-130 mechanic.  We swapped some stories, shook hands, and then made our ways in opposite directions with opposite choices of bikes.  I arrived in Clayton and checked into a very nice Best Western there – a great place with a friendly and helpful staff.  The restaurant recommendation was spot on, a small local mom and pop with good food and better service.  A relaxing day of riding today, tomorrow I will start heading up in elevation and the roads and weather will improve.

 

Dinner in Clayton, NM

Dinner in Clayton, NM

KTM makes a good drying rack

KTM makes a good drying rack

 

RideAbout65.4 – Day 5 – Clayton, NM to Taos, NM via Angel Fire Vietnam Vets Memorial

Total distance: 164.13 mi
Download file: Day-5.gpx

 

Today’s Mileage: 164 miles

Total Trip Mileage so far: 1336 miles

 

I had a good breakfast at the Best Western – very good in fact for a free breakfast, no rubber eggs or cardboard biscuits and a big crowd lapping it all up!  The road out of Clayton was not extremely scenic but it was easy to relax on as I headed toward Cimarron.  Past Cimarron the road turned into a motorcyclist’s dream, perfect pavement, light to no traffic, and curves, curves, and more curves as I headed up into the foothills toward Angel Fire.  As I had ridden this road last year, I was eagerly anticipating the rush only a good handling motorcycle can provide on such a road.  I chose this route again this year to re-visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park located near Angel Fire.  As I descended the last section of peg scraping curves into Angel Fire and approached the memorial park, I felt that familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever I visit the memorials of my war, the “I want to go, I don’t want to go” feeling.  But after visiting this memorial last year I know I will be glad to have stopped.

As I pulled into the parking lot, there were a few cars, more than the last time I visited.  But it was a Saturday this time rather than a weekday.  As I entered the upper section of the park I did not see anyone, they were all apparently down in the visitor center.  Once again I am struck with how quiet and peaceful this place is – the only sounds are the wind and the flag flapping against the pole.  I sat down in the garden next to the Huey to be with my thoughts for a while.  After about 15 minutes a couple enters and walks past, the guy, who is about my age not unexpectedly, asks the usual questions, having seen my bike and that I am carrying a helmet: “did you ride all the way from Tennessee” and “are you traveling by yourself”?  We have a pleasant bit of chit-chat and they continue on.   About 30 minutes later 3 motorcycles pull in, and they are not Harleys…a Kawasaki Concours, a Suzuki Vstrom, and a Honda Goldwing.  They all walk over to examine my bike before coming in.  They are from Texas and we chat about bikes for a while and then discuss my planned visit to the Sargent’s Mesa memorial in Colorado.  They mention they would really like to go there someday but not on this trip.  Soon they move on into the park as well – we are all really here for another reason and the short conversations we have are just a polite interlude.

After an hour or so I reluctantly walk out to my bike to ride down into Taos for the night.  Whatever resistance to stopping I had has been overcome by the comfort and peace this place shares with all.   A few more people are coming in and one asks a question I have never gotten before, “Is your bike a Ducati?”  I can feel my poor old Ducati at home spinning it self in circles.  I politely say no it is a KTM, “a what?” he asks.  We talk…

As I enjoy another great section of road down into Taos, I am already looking forward to the good meal that awaits across the street from my hotel.

Tomorrow is the day my friend Pat is supposed to meet up with me in Taos.  Pat is riding from Texas to Canada and we are going to ride together from Taos to near the Canadian border.

 

Entrance to the memorial.

Entrance to the memorial.

RideAbout65.4 – Day 6 – Taos, NM to Sargents Mesa – Flat Tire Day Part 1

Total distance: 227.33 mi
Download file: Day-6.gpx

 

Today’s Mileage: 227 miles

Total Trip Mileage so far: 1563 miles

 

Pat was sitting in the hotel lobby when I came down for breakfast – our meet up was successful!  But he was there so early only because his phone had not adjusted for the time change yet…he could have slept another hour.

Our plan was to ride north to Saguache, CO where we would look for the so-called “Secret Vietnam Memorial”.  Pat and I had discussed going to look for it a couple of months ago and since it was located about 15 miles off road up in the mountains, I was really glad he offered to go there with me because 15 miles is a long way off the beaten path to ride alone on basically a big street bike.  A minor problem could become a major problem very quickly.

I had only recently become aware of this memorial when my friend Tom from Jackson, TN forwarded me an email about it.  As I read the email, I immediately  wanted to go there.  As I thought more about it, I soon became drawn to it much like Richard Dreyfuss was drawn to Devils Tower.  I wasn’t building models out of mashed potatoes but I really wanted to go there…  When Pat and I discussed the location he told me the last time we went dirt bike riding in Colorado we actually rode in that area and probably passed within a mile of the memorial.

We left the hotel and rode north to Alamosa and then over to Saguache.  From Saguache we followed the road west out of town until we got to a gravel road that would connect with other gravel/unpaved roads and/or jeep trails and hopefully take us to the memorial.  The gravel road was in pretty good shape except that it was quite rocky, some quite sharp.  I am not sure how far we were up the gravel road, but certainly no more than 3 miles, when I felt the tell-tale rear end waggle that screamed “Flat Tire!!”.

With the sky turning dark and lightning starting to flash around us, we began to realize that we were actually lucky to have the flat at this point rather than 10 miles further up in the hills where the terrain might be sketchy and where we might have rain pouring down us.  With the weather situation worsening by the minute, we worked as fast as we could to take stock of the damage and get busy trying to make repairs… if possible.  Meanwhile, Pat was eyeing our surroundings for any possible shelter if the lightning started to get really serious.  It did not take long to find where the air came out – a rock cut about a three fourths of an inch long down between the treads – not anything like a simple nail hole.  But for once it seemed that I had made a good choice of tire repair tools – I had a Stop & Go tire plugger with mushroom plugs – I put one plug in after finally figuring how to make the plugger work (boys and girls – do try this at home first – learning by the side of the road is not the best method…).  Pat tested it with some water – it blew bubbles like a carnival ride.  So I put in a second plug next to the first – Ah Ha!  No visible bubbles.   We finished airing the tire with my Cycle Pump and figured on heading for Gunnison, about 65 miles away.  We would keep the speed down and stop and check the pressure every so often.  With the right tools and a centerstand on the bike – we were done in less than 30 minutes and before the rain really started coming down.  It just started serious rain as we pulled out for Gunnison.

Even though it took us a long time riding at about 40 mph, the trip to Gunnison was uneventful, only a little rainy.  I had put 40 psi in the tire – at the last check maybe 20 miles out of Gunnison the tire still had 35 psi in it but it had started to leak just a little bit.  The city limit sign outside of Gunnison was a very welcome sight.  We checked into a hotel and pondered our next move.

It is sort of funny that I had already planned to replace that tire on Tuesday because the wear bars were showing already at 2500 miles.  The SMT obviously ships with a sticky tire in keeping with the Super Moto part of its name.  However, the game was now changed, I had to have a tire now, not later.  Since the next day was Monday that meant most shops would be closed.  There were only two shops in the area that would be open on Monday, one in Montrose, 70 miles away, and Fritz Kadlec’s dirt oriented shop here in Gunnison (not likely to have a proper tire).  I realized it might be Tuesday before a tire could be located and installed.

Back to the original purpose of our expedition – visit the Vietnam Memorial at Sargents Mesa – we decided it probably would not be a good idea to attempt the trek up the mountain on these bikes again.  After some consideration we were pretty confident we might be able to get up there in a rental car or better, a rental SUV.  Late on a Sunday afternoon in a small town is not the best time to find a rental anything but again we lucked out – AVIS was still open and they had a small SUV available.  Pat took me down to the airport on his bike and I drove the rental back to the hotel.

A second attempt at Sargents Mesa would commence early Monday morning, after which we would work on solving the tire problem.  I would make some calls during the drive back over to Saguache.

In the meantime we put together plans to go to dinner with Allan and Kerrie Swartz, who were out vacation riding in the area from Moore, OK.  Kerrie raced in the International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) as a member of the United State’s women’s team for the events held recently in Mexico and Finland.  Kerrie and Allan were have a great time in Colorado camping and riding their vacation away.  It was great to see them again, I had seen Allan recently at the Loretta Lynn’s GNCC but I had not seen Kerrie since Finland.  I had planned to visit them last year during RideAbout65.2 but the tornado hit Moore just before my trip so we understandably postponed that visit.

To be continued…

 

 

End Part 1

 

 

 

 

RideAbout65.4 – Day 7 – Sargents Mesa – Soldierstone

We left the hotel early Monday morning in the rental SUV.  Our destination was Saguache for another go at finding the memorial on Sargents Mesa.  We turned onto the same gravel road just outside Saguache, driving conservatively in hopes of avoiding any tire problems.  As we went further along the road we found it to be in surprisingly good shape and well marked.  However, as we started up in elevation the road got somewhat rougher and much more rocky, finally turning into a narrow jeep trail as we got near the mesa.  But all things considered, we reached the mesa in the rental SUV pretty easily even though we did make a couple of wrong turns and some back tracking was necessary.

We were able to drive within about a quarter of a mile of the memorial – there was a fairly new fence and a sign indicating that the site should be respected and not to drive any further.  This has been mentioned in all the articles I have read about the memorial – approach on foot as driving on the ground around the memorial is disrespectful – it pains me to see photographs of my fellow dirt bikers and their bikes right up at the memorial.  I have heard that some veteran’s ashes are spread about the memorial grounds…

The memorial site on Sargents Mesa is extraordinary – open and desolate but beautifully forested on the sides, with the blue sky above and the  peacefulness that only comes from its distance away from the rest of the world.  Pat and I walked in silence over to the main stone obelisk surrounded by a triangular stacked stone wall.  Chipmunks ran along the walls with seemingly no fear of humans, obviously they knew we were here for something other than them.  In addition, we found about 30 or so flat stones with inscriptions in many languages distributed around the central obelisk out in the field and trees.  We may not have found them all as the grass often obscured them until you were right on them.  In an ammo box at the base of the central stone obelisk was a couple of notebooks were you could sign your name and write down your thoughts.  Also in the box were all the coins and shells that you see laying on the stones in some of the videos and photos posted on the internet.  Perhaps the Forest Service put them there for safe keeping.   Interestingly, all the signature dates started about the time the memorial first appeared on the internet…apparently before that there were few visitors and no records kept.  There were a lot of names in the books – obviously there are lots of other folks just as compelled to visit this site as I have been.

I think the memorial was intended to be called “Soldierstone” since that word is inscribed at the top of the obelisk on one side.  I have seen that others have also called the memorial Soldierstone, and personally I think it is a fitting name.

Mere photographs do not convey the power of this memorial to the souls of our fallen brothers and sisters.  The memorial is simple yet at the same time complex – when you combine the simplicity and complexity with the solitude of this remote location the result is a unique and spiritual feeling that is difficult to describe.

After exploring the site thoroughly and accompanying me while I placed a memento for my friend Jack, Pat went back to the car so I could spend some time alone with my thoughts.  I was there for a while when suddenly a black and white dog ran up to me and licked me on the face.  I was quite surprised to say the least as I thought I was all alone.  It turns out that the dog’s owner was checking on their cows that were grazing nearby.  She stopped and talked with me for a while…the dog’s name was Applejack.

Finally and very reluctantly I made my way across the field to descend back into our regular world.  For me this memorial is of special significance and joins on equal footing those other sacred destinations of my era veterans, the Wall and Angel Fire.  I will return here someday, hopefully soon.

IMG_4211

View from the Obelisk

 

 

RideAbout65.4 – Day 7 – Flat Tire Day Part 2

Total distance: 71.39 mi
Download file: Day-7a.gpx

 

Today’s Mileage: 71 miles

Total Trip Mileage so far: 1634 miles

 

We returned to Gunnison to sort out the rear tire issue on my bike.  Since it was Monday, few motorcycle shops were open – however, a dealer in Montrose was open and I had talked to him by phone while we were driving back.  He was fairly sure he had a tire but his service department was not sure they could get installed today.  Also, going to Montrose for the tire would involve driving the bike another 70 miles on the plugged tire.  The other thought we had was just to wait until the next morning (Tuesday) and go to the dealer in Gunnison, although that would be a bit of a gamble with regard to if he had a tire or not.  While we were mulling over what to do, we decided to drive over to the dealer in case someone happened to be at work and also to confirm what time they opened.  As we really expected, there was no one at work so we got the opening time info from the door and started to leave when we noticed that the small independent off-road shop run by multi-time IDSE rider/gold medalist Fritz Kadlec was open.  We did not have much hope that he would have a street bike tire, let alone a tire for my bike but we thought it would be nice to drop in for a few minutes…and it never hurts to ask.

When I asked about street tires, Fritz’s wife said they actually did have a few and if we could wait a few minutes she would go upstairs and see what she could find.  She went up and rummaged around a while, when she re-appeared she was holding a tire and saying she thought it might work.  We all gathered around the tire like it was the holy grail while she looked it up in her catalog.  Well, it was the right size, it was a radial, and it was not a track day tire…at that point I would have taken just round and black.  She had performed an actual miracle as far as we were concerned, even though it was a different brand than the front tire it would work just fine (it would be worn out by the end of this trip anyway) AND most important, we did not have to go to another town or wait another day…we hoped.  Now the best part, I realized it was getting late in the day already, but when I asked what time they closed the shop, she said, “after we finish with your bike”.  It just does not get any better than that – a true old school motorcycle shop that cares about your problems — that philosophy is getting pretty hard to find these days.  And it is not that they were not busy, on the contrary the shop was full and Fritz and his wife were determined to solve each and every person’s problem or need before they went home that evening.

We went happily back to the hotel and put air in the tire (remember that little leak?) since it had gone flat overnight.  After we dropped the bike at Fritz’s shop we took the rental car back to the airport and then rode double on Pat’s bike back to the shop.  Within 30 or so minutes after we got back it was done, the mechanic even lubed and adjusted my chain while he was at it.

This experience just oozed good karma – Fritz and his wife are the best kind of people – we just wish the world was completely populated with their kind!! But in the mean time remember Gunnison Motorsports if you are even in the area and need anything motorcycle or even if you are not.  They deserve your business.  And they are now a Husqvarna dealer as well.

It was very late afternoon when everything was done and we were ready to travel again.  We had decided to head on to Montrose because Pat’s friend Darren has a house there.  I had originally planned to go over to Colorado Springs for a visit with my old high school friend Fred but now I decided I would have to visit him on the return trip instead.  We needed to head toward Glacier National Park and ride the Going-to-the-Sun road so that Pat could head on to Canada (he has a place to be on a certain day).

The ride over to Montrose was pleasantly uneventful.

 

Tire Plugs Inside

Inside tire view of tire plugs.

RideAbout65.4 – Day 8 – Montrose, CO

Today’s Mileage: 0 miles

Total Trip Mileage so far: 1634 miles

 

We decided to take Day 8 as a rest and reorganize day.  No riding today, washed clothes instead…

Tom Carter
Leipers Fork, Tennessee

Mechanical Engineering Consultant

Motorcycle Rider/ Racer/ Tester

Husband/ Dad/ Grandfather/ Great-Grandfather

Planet Earth Arrival 1947

First rode a motorcycle around 1958

Still riding today…