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Archive for May, 2010

May 29th, 2010 - Rocky Mountain High

Early dawn found us packing the bike grateful for a few hours of shut-eye out of the wind. We said good-bye to Paul as he had to head to work and found a Wal-Mart to buy the replacement rack for the bike. Then we camped out at the Golden Arches as per usual, when we need Wi-Fi, to try to find some place to work on the bike. I posted an SOS on the GS Resources forum to see if anyone from the Denver area could help us out. After a few hours we were relieved to get a call from fellow GSer, Tom Kent, who invited us to his home in Littleton, CO.  He met us with lemonade and invited us to his granddaughter, Amberlynn’s birthday party down the street where we met the rest of Tom’s family.

We love meeting new people on our trip. So many people have gone out of their way to help us or to make us feel welcome, and Tom’s family was no exception. Tom and his lovely wife, J’Amy, graciously welcomed us into their home, along with their son, Thomas, and cat, Tweak. They made us feel like part of the family while we were there. We were even able to attend Thomas’s graduation. Congratulations Thomas!

Tom is an airline pilot with a love of restoring old bikes. He has a fully-stocked garage and was even in the process of adding a shop to work on his projects. Soon we were swapping stories and chatting like old buddies. Two heads are often better than one, and as we parleyed ideas for the bike, the original project of fixing the rack for the pannier evolved into a multi-faceted task. A three hour job turned into a 4 days of fabrication.

The main problem with the hillbilly racks was that they were aluminum and were not designed to hold anything more than 10 pounds. They broke from the weld joint every time in the same spot leaving the whole rack useless. The cure to that came from a metal scrap yard where we bought aluminum stocks and sheets to make our braces. Two semi V shape brackets on sides, and two on the top did the job but the aluminum tube of the rack was so thin that you could barely put any force on the bolts. We cut aluminum tubes to go over the bolts and keep the main tube from crushing under the force. To make it even stronger, we fashioned four steel tube braces to go from the engine mounts to the boxes to keep the boxes from swinging left and right. To cap it off, we changed the oil and added two 55W Halogen fog lights to the front to fix the lighting problem.

I lived so long with the pain of the old and bent-up side-stand that I almost forgot what a good side stand would be like. Not any more. Tom is the master of fabrication, and all it took was two aluminum hockey pucks and two machine screws to put an end to that old pain. He even welded the backside of the stand to make it sturdier and now I have a fully functioning side stand. Tom promised me to burn that old block of 2×4 I hauled around for under the stand along with his Harbor Freight Sawzall!

We bid farewell to Denver in the late afternoon with plans to head to Laramie to stay with some couchsurfing hosts there. Taking a scenic route through the Colorado giants, we soon encountered breathtaking views and snow along the road. We entered into the Rocky Mountain National Park enjoying peaks at antelope and elk along the way. We had to go slowly in several sections of the road where there was gravel or there were workman taking down trees ravaged by the rampant beetle kill. The light started fading just as to our dismay, we reached a road barricade with no hope of passing through. There wasn’t a soul in site and the official campgrounds we passed on the way had all been closed. We would have to go a long ways back to make it out of the park and into a town, and at this point I was nervous about hitting an animal in the poor visibility. I’ve already had some close calls in the past in my Jeep and wasn’t eager to press my luck, as one wayward deer would likely make road kill out of us on a bike. We tried to call our couchsurfers in Laramie to let them know we can’t make it and soon realized that neither one of us had cell phone reception. We walked around the hillsides trying to get a signal but the cell phone gods were not on our side.

Deciding to forgo dinner as we were too cold and tired to cook, we pitched camp, making sure to hoist our food up a tree a good distance away in case a hungry bear came around. In the morning we met a couple from Germany who was also waiting for the road to open. They said that it was supposed to open that day with a ceremony to start the season. We are heading up north for Montana for a few days. It’s raining and snowing hard in Teton and Yellowstone so we have to make our call…

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May 24th, 2010 - Las Vegas, Baby!

As we rode up the 25N, we felt a little bit like we were in the twilight zone, each of us privately musing over our recollection of US geography and wondering how in the world Las Vegas could be on our route. Hadn’t we left that back West, miles ago? But sure enough, sign after sign kept pointing towards Las Vegas. Turns out there is another Las Vegas, in New Mexico, although this one doesn’t come up in the first five pages of a Google search, if you just search for Las Vegas instead of Las Vegas, NM, but it should given its colorful and storied history.

Las Vegas was established in 1835 after a group of settlers received a land grant from the Mexican government. The town was laid out in the traditional Spanish Colonial style, with a central plaza surrounded by buildings which could serve as fortifications in case of attack. Las Vegas soon prospered as a stop on the Santa Fe Trail. Historian Ralph Emerson Twitchell once claimed, “Without exception there was no town which harbored a more disreputable gang of desperadoes and outlaws than did Las Vegas.” Among the notorious characters were such legends of the Old West as: dentist Doc Holliday and his girlfriend, Big Nose Kate, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Mysterious Dave Mather, Hoodoo Brown, Durango Kid and Handsome Harry the Dancehall Rustler. A number of films were made in this town, and Patrick Swayze, American actor, dancer and singer-songwriter, had a ranch in Las Vegas.

After grabbing some New Mexican grub in Vegas, we headed out into the fierce winds, like 2 bugs on a bull. The wind was blowing around 45-50 mph. and pushing us back and forth all over the highway. Sometime during the ride, the plastic cradle for the GPS which was mounted on the front left side of the bike broke off. Luckily, Chris was able to grab the GPS before it fell and smashed to bits on the highway. We pulled over at a rest stop to get a reprieve from riding in the winds. Chris latched his helmet onto the front left pannier as he had done hundreds of times before, and the rack supporting the pannier sheared completely off and fell to the ground with the pannier.

Thankfully a friendly family traveling in their RV came over to chat and gave us some rope to help strap the box to the rear left pannier. It’s important that the weight on the bike be properly be balanced and distributed so as to ensure the maximum safety while riding. We were already having trouble riding in the wind but after having to re-position the left front pannier to the back, we were wobbling back and forth in the wind.

With miles to go until Denver, Colorado, we were trying to make good time to reach our couch surfing host, Paul Cornelius, but had to ride between 45-65 miles per hour. This slower place made it easier to spot the antelope dotting the plains as we drove by. The sun set gloriously against the mountains, and we still were hours from Denver. We threw on more layers to help beat the wind-chill and pushed on until we arrived exhausted at Paul’s doorstep. Paul opened the door before we even dismounted from the bike and came out to welcome us. Although our stay with him was short, he took the time from his busy schedule to visit with us and share stories about life and travels around the world. He’s traveled all over Central and South America as well as lived in Europe and will be leaving shortly on a back-packing trip to Asia and Africa for the next 2 years. The next morning we lucked out and found the coolest guy on the planet with more tools that I could care for. We’ll be fixing the bike here in Denver and get on the road. Stay tuned!

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As great as it is to follow Chris and his ride around the world, I often find myself looking for ways to help the cause without committing years of my life to a journey such as his. The first step is education, but once people realize how huge the issue is, they all too often get discouraged and do nothing, thinking the problem is beyond us. That is not the case at all, and my weekend is proof of that.

In July I am going on a missionary trip to Haiti to help MissionE4 rebuild some schools destroyed during the Earthquake. Part of our groups training for the trip is some teambuilding events and one of them was a “homeless night” where we got together at the Church on Friday and spent the night outside with nothing but the clothes on our backs and a stack of card board boxes to fashion up some shelters with.

This exercise really only touched on the experience but it was done in conjunction with the youth group and served as a great lesson for them as well. My son took part in this event with me and was part of the continued exercise the following day known as the 30 hour famine. Like the homeless night it is designed to give youth a glimpse of what it is like to not have a basic need met and feel even just for a day what other children around the world are feeling day after day.

They reviewed humbling statistics and really had their eyes opened up. Along with the lessons learned, it was a fund raiser to help hungry children around the world through World Vision. I myself was taught a humbling lesson as well when I learned just one of the girls taking part of this event raised a bit over $2,700 for the 30 hour famine through pledges from friends and family. If one 14 year old can do that, surely I can do more.

On Sunday was the walk for hunger in Boston. I put a team together for this last year with the youth group at my previous Church and wanted to continue my support this year. Unfortunately my new church could not participate as they were having a big fundraiser the same day for our Haiti missionary trip so I got a team together of friends and family. The walk for hunger has been going on for over 40 years in Boston and helps fund Project Bread, a non-profit organization that helps fund food programs locally in Massachusetts for hungry families and kids. The walk was 20 miles through Boston on a very hot and sunny day amidst a water shortage due to a broken water main affecting over 2 million residents. Luckily the water stations where supplied with clean spring water and eventually we made it the full 20 miles of the walk with the kids making it a solid 5 miles. In total the event drew 42,000 walkers and raised 3.8 million dollars to help fund Project Bread. Our teams donations may not have been as much as I wanted but it felt great being among so many others just trying to do their part and then seeing how much money was raised between everyone together.

You may read these blogs and agree that something must be done but doubt what you can do as an individual. It will take a lot to change the world, but every little bit helps and collectively we can make a difference. You do not have to dedicate years of your life to ride a motorcycle around the world to help, join me in showing my support through acting locally and giving globally.

Jared Williams, PR Director

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May 21st, 2010 - Santa Fe Inspiration!

The ride to Santa Fe along the Scenic Byway 14 unfolded like a picture-postcard. You couldn’t have ordered a more beautiful day. The layers of endless white clouds billowed around us in every direction. We stopped in the artsy little town of Madrid, which was once a historic mining town and ghost town, for a pit stop, and then continued on until reaching, America’s oldest capital city, Santa Fe.

Santa Fe, or “the City Different,” as it more aptly nicknamed, is loaded with flavor with charming and interesting architecture and art engaging your senses everywhere you look. The city is home to a host of art galleries and museums for art lovers, including the famed Georgia O’Keefe Museum. We landed at the historic Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza which has retained some of the original adobe walls of the 350-year old home of Santa Fe’s “first family,” the Ortiz family. Many thanks to Suzanne Lehman at the Hilton Santa Fe for sponsoring our first night in the beautiful hotel.

We are still on our fundraising portion of our expedition before turning south for Argentina. It’s hard to put the word fun in fundraising as taking off helmets and riding gear every five minutes to approach another business is not a pleasant task, but the creative vibe of Santa Fe must have rubbed off on Chris while we were there as he had a eureka moment of EPIC magnitude which has been taking up a lot of time in planning. The plan is to set up a charity ride. But not just ONE charity ride-try 50 simultaneous rides in all 50 states!!! This unprecedented event will take place in late August (stay tuned for the exact date and locations as we sort through this). This ride is a nationally and internationally sponsored event, with lots of cool raffle items and entertainment. We are looking for volunteer ride leaders in every state so if you are interested, please send us an email and we’ll put you on the list.

We would also like to thank Jean Salisbury at Lamplighter Inn and Brian Womach at Holiday Inn of Santa Fe for sponsoring the rest of our accommodations while networking and getting the charity ride off the ground. We enjoyed their clean and comfortable rooms and their top-notch hospitality. We both agreed: Santa Fe, NM is a really cool place. We loved it there and bet you will too.

Stay tuned:  a motorcycle safety awareness feature and adventures on the road to Denver coming up!

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May 16th, 2010 - Albuquerque, NM

We would like to thank Sarah Jennings and Cheryl Gibson as well as our anonymous donors for their generous donations.

The cool air by the river in the Payson pine forest campsite tempted us to linger a little longer as it was a welcome relief from the heat from earlier in the week.  Reluctantly we packed up camp and loaded the bike to get on the road again. The process takes at least a good 30-45 minutes. We started back on the 277 to Albuquerque, enjoying the dramatic and changing scenery from pine trees to cactuses to beautiful red rock cliffs. The open road was especially windy. Highway 40 was even shut down shortly after we passed through it due to high winds. The road seemed never-ending and by nightfall, we still hadn’t reached Albuquerque but wanted to push on to our couchsurfing hosts, Janice and Dan Kostelnick.

We arrived late with 4 layers of shirts due to the wind-chill and were grateful to be met by Janice’s warm and welcoming hospitality. She kept a delicious dinner waiting for us and made us feel right at home. Janice is an exuberant, straight-shooting, creative soul who loves art. She was working on an amazing mosaic project on the wall around her house. Her husband Dan is an engineer and has a calm steady demeanor and sarcastic wit. The two make a good balance for each other. Dan had an awesome garage with every tool imaginable and helped me do some maintenance on the bike.

We are grateful to Yvonne Scott, another fellow couchsurfer, for writing about our World Hunger Exhibition on her blog. Yvonne lives and works in Albuquerque, NM, enjoying her granddaughters, mountains and year around motorcycle roadways. She is a landscape consultant and freelance writer on everything from Mongolian embroidery to her other passion: solo travel on the cheap.

Trying new things comes part and parcel with traveling around the world. In all my 28 years I’ve never even heard of a Flowbee, much less had my head shorn with one by an Italian ex-hippie. But thanks to our next hosts, Katherine and Bob Riolo, I can now cross that off my list! They were contemplating moving to work with the needy in another country after having gone to Nicaragua for one month. Inspired by the movie, The Bucket List, Katherine wrote her own list and was actually going to shave her hair for cancer at an event for St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

During our stay in Albuquerque we had two slideshow presentations and lectures scheduled at the Albuquerque Main Library as part of our World Hunger Exhibition. We also had a display outside the library to spread the word about the expedition and fundraise and were able to meet  Harry, a physician, who had gone to hear the presentation before ours by Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières). We are grateful to Joani Murphy, the library manager, for her assistance in coordinating our events at the library.

At the end of our stay, we met Steve, a kind-hearted and free-spirited guy and got to stay in his very cool bus/RV. Steve is a talented wood-working artist and photographer who travels around the world selling his art and enjoying other cultures. He rides a BMW 1200RS that smoked our ride by miles when we went out cruising together.

All told Albuquerque was very kind to us and we enjoyed our time there and the people we met. The flavors of the Southwest have been delightful thus far and we look forward to more.

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Parker Dam to Phoenix, AZ is about 170 miles, but we took the back roads and that made it an 8 hour ride. I’m convinced that Arizona has the best highways on the planet. The asphalt is flawless, and the scenery is spectacular. That’s why a lot of people migrate south from the northern states during the winter months to bask in the sun and enjoy this beautiful state. The open roads and sunny skies of late were calling not only us, but many other motorcyclists to the road as I have never seen so many motorcyclists on as in I did in Arizona. There were motorcycle gangs and solo riders everywhere we looked. As long as you stay in the shade, the temperatures are actually not too bad but. No wonder you don’t even see bugs out in the heat of the day.

On our way to Phoenix we stopped at a cool little Western town called Wickenburg with hitching posts and statues of people in old-fashioned attire. The town almost looked deserted but it was clean and we found a great shady spot by some fenced off train cars next to the Chamber of Commerce.  We were really dehydrated and some lady kindly gave us a cold bottle of water and filled up the rest of our bottles. A friendly local guy named Scott, who was a rider as well, came over to see the bike, and since my trusty Garmin GPS had just stopped working for some odd reason, he gave us some good directions to avoid the Phoenix rush-hour traffic.

We made it to Phoenix rather late at night with no place to stay. Cynthia convinced me that we should try to send out a last-minute request on to see if anyone would put us before we tried to find a cheap hotel. We’re on a rather strict budget and try to use hotels only as a last resort. Around 9:15 p.m. we got a call from Ryan who welcomed us to his home in a beautiful Mesa suburb. We were his first couch surfers ever, and Ryan turned out to be a first-class host. His home was immaculate and comfortable. Ryan helped us do our laundry and feel human again after riding in the desert for the past few days with no shower. After sleeping in, we woke up delighted to be on the receiving end of Ryan’s delicious cooking and enjoyed the gourmet breakfast that he had waiting for us before we went on our way.  Thank you, Ryan, for opening up your home to us at the last minute.

We found shade and a place to work on the bike at the local Wal-Mart service bay where the employees helped us a lot with providing degreaser, rags, and washing container for me to clean the dusty clogged air filter that was making the bike choke and replace the windshield. My friend, Laura Blackwood, met up with us with a refreshing frappuccino in hand to cool us off and brought us our mail and the new windshield from National Cycle which had been shipped to her for us to pick up.  National Cycle generously replaced the cracked windshield at no charge. National Cycle is one of the leaders in the motorcycle windshield market, and they make quality shields for a broad range of motorcycles. I’ve been very happy with their products and will continue to use them. Thanks to Steve at National Cycle for assisting me with taking care of this problem.

Laura is multi-faceted woman with many interests and talents. She has worked in radio and is a great story-teller thanks to her background in radio and education in English. After chatting for a while and reviewing maps with Laura, we said our good-byes and left Mesa for Northern Arizona’s high country. A big thank-you to Laura for her assistance in helping us out with bringing our mail and for the frappuccino. We gradually climbed higher into cooler climes and the cactus-covered land gradually gave way to full-fledged pine forests with rivers and creeks. We stopped in Payson, AZ to pick up some groceries and pushed on to find a place to camp in the woods with nightfall rapidly falling. We found a very nice campsite by the river amidst a stand of tall trees. Cynthia is petrified of the dark and was constantly shining her little bitty headlamp light in every direction for the boogeyman that is supposedly out there. I enjoyed scaring her to death by throwing rocks into the dark and pretending to hear something outside of the tent every once in a while.  I hope she gets over her fear sometime soon as we will be camping in much more scary places than peaceful Payson, AZ. Stay tuned.

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May 7th, 2010 - And the adventures begin

Cynthia was quiet and all I could hear was the spinning of the tire. I turned my head to look at her, but a cloud of dust was all I could see. The rear wheel finally stopped spinning and I felt the bike disappearing underground. We were stuck in the deep soft sands of the Colorado River bed. It was already dusk and not a soul around.

That morning we had departed Barstow headed for the Grand Canyon, but the wind didn’t ease up. And neither did the temperature which kept sky rocketing to 98 degrees by only midday. I grew up in desert and seeing triple digit temperatures is not alien to me, but wearing two pairs of pants, a black riding jacket and a giant helmet is not exactly hot weather attire. Sweat kept coming down my forehead into my eyes, and I could taste the salt every time I licked my lips. We stopped in a shade to get out of the heat for even a second, and Cynthia almost passed out from exhaustion.

We had over 7 hours of riding to the Grand Canyon, and we had to make a stop in Phoenix to see my friend, Laura Blackwood, and pick up the new windshield and our bank cards. We also had to be at Albuquerque, NM on the 10th so abandoned the thought of visiting the Grand Canyon for making better time and took the opposite rode for Lake Havasu City in Southern Arizona. We arrived in Lake Havasu City around 5pm and stopped to get some water. Lake Havasu City is home to the famous original London Bridge which was relocated from England to the United States in 1964. We did our grocery shopping and headed south again with hope of finding a camp spot before dark. Highway 95 follows the Colorado River south for the most part, and both side of the highway is desert with cactuses and the occasional hill.

We found a nice campground on the river close to the Parker Dam but at $26 a night, my immediate reaction was to turn around and look for a free site on the opposite side of the highway which was all BLM lands. We took the first passable dirt road that we could find off the highway. The road started with hard packed dirt, turned into loose gravel which grew larger, and then turned into shale. At that point Cynthia wanted to get off the bike as we were fishtailing all over the place. In the distance I saw a scraggly tree, more like a large shrub which I hope would provide a smidgen of shade, and a relatively flat spot so I stood on the pegs to ride the bike down to the good spot. I was all happy until I tried to put the bike on the kickstand and get off. My feet started sinking, and I knew then and there we were in deep shit.

With a block of wood under the stand, I got off the bike and started unloading our gear with the hope of making the bike a little lighter, and I aired down the tires a few pound for better floatation. All I had to do was to cover 100 yards of a loop to get back up to the solid ground, but the ground turned into powder that swallowed everything. With all my might I completed the loop almost home free, but the last section was the worst, and the bike didn’t move an inch forward but kept on sinking down.

We were almost a mile from the highway and no one in sight. The bike went so far down that the rear wheel stopped spinning, and the exhausts were getting buried in the sand. The good thing was that the bike stood upright without needing the kickstand so I could get off of it. Cynthia suggested that we should dig the bike out of the sand. I looked at her like she was crazy and told her so. It seemed like the sand went all the way to China. My master plan was to get AAA to come and pull us out, but that all ended when they informed us they are not responsible for anything more than 100 feet off the closest paved road. My next plan was to go back to the main road in the morning and find someone with a truck to pull us out. Cynthia kept insisting that we try to dig it out. I told her that if you want to dig it out go right ahead, and I got on the phone to talk to commiserate my woes to my friend Andy.

When I was done with my phone call, I noticed that Cynthia was on the ground under the bike with a flat rock digging out sand. She was covered in sand and dust, but to my astonishment she dug the whole tire out and kept on placing small rocks under the tire to give it some traction. Finally I agreed to give it a shot and after spinning the rear tire on and off and digging it out a few more times, we managed to get the bike onto semi-solid ground. Cynthia got a Girl Scout badge and was honored a medal for saving our butts. I made up for the efforts for setting up the camp with the most comfortable sleeping pad (check out the picture). It looked hillbilly but hell it was comfortable. It’s hot out here; by 7 a.m. we were baked out of the tent. We need to get out of Arizona soon. Stay tuned.

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