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Thursday, 29 December 2011

Desert to Alpine Mountains and the Sea .... Week 5/6

I guess I'll still be following Route 50 all the time hopefully without getting lost, heading West. 

My aim is to find the old Pony Express Relay Stop at Middlegate Junction.  This place sounds like a true definition of the old Wild West just offering gas, food and inexpensive overnight lodging.  Apparently known as the place in the middle of nowhere.
Then it's south to leave Nevada and get into California up to somewhere close to Crowley Lake and Bridgeport in the Sierra Nevada for a few days R&R.  Found a lovely little gem of a place where I can hopefully ride horses or hike up into the hills and countryside.
I need to get onto the West Coast and from here there are only a few places to get across the Sierra Nevada Mountains - Tempted to take Route 150, otherwise known as the Tioga Pass which is only open about 3 months of the year due to its 10 000 foot elevation with snow on it most of the time.  Have heard the 90 mile road is incredible weaving through Yosemite Park and climbing to heights to give amazing views.  The gate leaving this route on the West is then fairly close to San Francisco but still don't know where I'm headed, except South!

Would like to get to the Pacific Coast as soon as possible and probably drive leisurely down Highway 1 ... 
Too good to be true, but I already have a very generous invite to stay at one of the famous oceanfront Malibu beach homes, apparently next door to where Two and a Half Men was supposedly filmed!
Wow what a way to end the journey. 
Well not quite, I'm sure another adventure will only have just started in trying to navigate the LA highways.

Imagining the sound of breaking waves, the smell of the ocean and blue sunny skies makes the cold miserable winter here seem bearable.

My wishes for the New Year -
Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes couldn't have said it better ... "Wake Up Everybody" ....

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Carpe Diem - Seize the day - Week 4

Terribly sad news received today that dear, lovely Angus died of cancer in October and only diagnosed in August - he left his recent wife and little boy only 18 months old - he was only about 40.  Why does this have to happen to the kindest, nicest of people?  My friend who told me, said without knowing my trip "keep in touch ... life is too short xx"  Yes, it definately is.

So even more now, I have to keep going on planning the trip ...
Should be strangely a fairly spiritual and moving week -  Planning to get from Monument Valley up through Bluff and get to one of the "special" places I've already booked just outside Moab and Arches Parkland. 
Red Cliff Lodge on the Colorado River.
Have already got in contact and will hopefully head out on horseback with the head wrangler who knows our mutual acquaintance Les Vogt , 15-Time World Champion known for training winning reining and reined cow horses.
Les has been honored in the NRCHA Hall of Fame three times and I had the privilege of being tutored by him on one of his beautiful Quarter horses (in front of a big audience!) in the main ring at the World Equestrian Show in Germany when I was organizing the US group to the show. 
May even see if we can meet up again on the way back through California.

Then up to Salt Lake City to get to one of the main reasons for the trip ...
Amazing land world racing records have been set here and if I have the audacity to get out onto them and not get lost or bogged down (although the weather at that time should be incredibly dry and hot)  and ride at speed across the Bonneville flats on my Triumph Bonneville then that would be incredible.
This is where the bikes name comes from!

More hundreds of miles across Nevada's deserts, onto Route 50 the "Loneliest Road in America" where you can travel up to 30 miles without seeing a single vehicle.  Ely, a former stage coach station with the Hotel Nevada & Casino famous for its illegal gambling & bootlegging in the height of the 1920's prohabition - sounds like my kind of place as it's also biker friendly! 

Then continuing along Route 50 and the Pony Express Territory ( to Eureka a remote, old gold rush town.  I love what they say about the Pony Express -

"Wanted: Young skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen.  Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily.  Orphans preferred". 
In 1860, this ad appeared on posters advertising openings for one of the most dangerous, heroic jobs in American history, the Pony Express trail rider.  From April 1860 to October 1861, dozens of brave young riders carried the US mail by horseback between Sacremento, California and St. Joseph, Missouri.  Today, Highway 50 roughly parallels the route of the Pony Express trail.

Young Pony Express trail rides sat atop the fastest horses available and carried mail in a special pouch saddle called a "mochila".  Each Pony Express trail rider would cover a certain distance to a relay station, where the next would grab the mochila and continue the journey until the 2000 miles of wilderness had been crossed.  Conflict with Native Americans, gangs of robbers and other troublemakers were common, and numerous riders died in the line of duty.

My next stop is finding that relay station !

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Week 3 ... Cowboy country ... totally cool ...

I sometimes think that in a previous life I was either a cowboy/girl or a native Indian - this way of life and the vast expanses of country in the Mid West have always fascinated me (maybe being born in Hereford the place of the famous and beautiful white faced Hereford cattle created this intrigue). 

I'm already excited visualizing the enormous landscapes, the sounds of horses galloping and the thundering hooves of cattle being rounded up ... mmmm...

So hopefully if all goes well (including the Bonnie)  I'll start the week in Oklahoma City  for a well deserved days rest; but hey what is rest when there's so much to see and do? 
The highlight will have to be visiting the National Cowboy and Western Museum and definately trying to creep in and experience one of the auctions at the worlds largest cattle market and stock yards with the cattlemen, horsemen, farmers, ranchers and real cowboys buying and selling - it's just another world -

Next day the plan is to cover 300 miles along the "Mother Road" or Route 66 to Amarillo - this road trip wouldn't be complete without riding at least part of this famous road. 
I'm hoping to stay at a Horse Hotel - literally! ... where the cowboys stay with their horses ! 

But Hereford, TX is also closeby and this is somewhere just out of sentimentality that I want to try and get to.
Then back on Route 66, heading north to Santa Fe before heading into Colorado to Durango and jump onto the incredible steam narrow gauge railway trip through the San Juan Mountains up to Silverton

Still westward bound but getting into the ever incredible landscapes - maybe heading via Four Corners to experience a small thrill - of being able to stand in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah all at the same time. Then approaching the spectacular buttes and mesas in the desert of Monument Valley.  Imagine John Wayne on horseback contemplating the unknowable vastness of the Wild West or UFO's landing - the backdrop of many films. 

As they say, Hollywood showed the world how to make westerns. Monument Valley showed the world how they should look. 
All the classics were done there; John Ford's Stagecoach, My Darling Clementine and yes Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and ... 2001: a Space Odyssey, Thelma & Louise, Forrest Gump ....

By the end of the week I'll hang my hat (helmet) up at maybe Mexican Hat,  about 40 miles north of Monument Valley,  at an old indian bar and dance hall where they'll hopefully have a room for me. 

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Week 2 ...

They say that maybe 2 of the best roads in America are next to each other in a 130 mile loop and close to Asheville or at least approximately on my route westbound - this is potentially a long day ...

The famous Tail of the Dragon US129 - 319 curves in 11 miles is they say one of the true Bikers routes - don't know if I'll have the courage or time to do it all  but exciting to know I'll be  nearby.

Maybe more interestingly is the Cherohala Skyway - apparently any TV ad for cars driving through incredible scenary was done here.  Robbinsville, North Carolina to Tellico Plains, Tennessee side about 54 miles.  880 feet in elevation and over the next 30 road miles climb nearly a mile higher reaching more than 5,000 feet - also apparently far less travelled than the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway.

But I'm planning to get to Nashville by end of play that day ... mmm let's see.

Nashville - dreams of country music, hats, chaps ...

On to Memphis where I'm hoping to stay with Liz, a good friend I used to work with in Boston.  Will see if she'll indulge me to visit Gracelands - it feels pretty momentus at this stage alone!

Then in this same week from Memphis I'm planning to take 3 days to get to Oklahoma City - I'm currently needing ideas on the most interesting route but the Talimena Route sounds good - instead of stopping at Little Rock it sounds like an idea to go onto Hot Springs, AR (natural spa town in the mountain with its hey day in the early 1900's), and take this route .  Something about Oachita National Park on the way to Oklahoma ?  Will have to find out more ....

Then hoping to get into Cowboy (yipee!) country/capital at the end of the weekend where my first place has been booked - beautiful what I'd call "boutique" horse ranch just outside Oklahoma City, also showcasing some of the best local artists - best of both worlds - will be a great base for the next few days!

Monday, 12 December 2011

So this is the plan .. so far ! Week 1 ...

Now that I have the T100 sorted (even paid the deposit - gulp!), my journey is coming to life. 

I'm being careful and trying not to loose control on the potential miles on the more things I want to do and see but this is how I see it starting to look. 
The secret I believe is to tie down and secure key places along the route so these can be used to time and shape the trip.

On the other hand, confirming too much will stop the spontanaeity and freedom on choosing new routes that may be recommended or that I know will be better once I get started :
June 2012 - Week 1 - East Coast/Blue Ridge Parkway
Day 1 - Boston - While I'm staying with my friends I want to take advantage of the first day with the bike to get used to it, maybe take it on a short ride, see some friends and even meet up with some other local Massachusetts bikers who've kindly given some advice on possible routes.  Also sort out packing  the bike!
Day 2 and rest of week - this I feel will probably be the most daunting day.  The first day on my own.  I want, no I need,  to cover a lot of miles to get as close to the Philadelphia/Baltimore area so the rest of the week can get onto these incredible scenic routes starting in Virginia at Front Royal the gateway to the Shenandoah National Park which leads into the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

The Blue Ridge Parkway (leading down to the Great Smoky Mountains) covers  469 beautiful miles through Virginia & North Carolina with 203 viewing points and 26 tunnels.  I want to stop at some of the boho art and music scene places like the little place of Galax known as the "world's capital of bluegrass music", visiting maybe the guys who supplied my beautiful bike bags in Independence and staying over in Asheville over the weekend. 

This week will cover almost 1000 miles.