Sunday, February 22, 2015

Taking The Long Way Back Home To Montana

We came down off the snow covered mountain at Lake Tahoe, Jordan, Vaughn and me, after they had a great day on the slopes and I had a great day writing and people watching. People of all ages, including many senior citizens were having a beautiful sunny day riding the gondolas and taking advantage of a warm winter day.

After Sunday Church at Apostles Lutheran, lunch was at a downtown San Jose Food Mall and included a meeting with Pratima and Atul, the Mother and Brother of Vaughn's girl friend Pooja. Great folks and we had a nice visit.

Monday morning found me taking the first leg of my trip back home to Montana.
From San Jose, Siri, the lady who runs my new Iphone 6, took me to Castroville 
and the Bikers fabled California Highway 1.

What a ride it was down the Pacific Coast to San Luis Obispo, or SLO, as the locals refer to it. The road winds in and out of shoreline views and you ride through an ever changing up and down ride, all the while watching a shoreline of sandy beaches and rocky inlets. Cars were parked at every "Vista Viewing Area," and the already narrow highway became even narrower. Many Bikers were riding the twisties.

The KOA camp at Santa Margarita was a great rest stop overnight as I prepared for a ride through a coastal mountain range on Highway 58.
I was looking forward to a sunny, morning  ride through some of the windingest, twistingest mountain roads I have ridden.
My morning ride through the twisties began in a dense, heavy fog that was almost like rain. The mountain ride was a thrill and the sun burned off the fog when I was half way through the hills.
It was a good ride into Barstow where the KOA was easy to find and was nice and quiet.
ROUTE 66 !
The National Historic Trails designation made it sound like a well loved highway.
And perhaps it is in some areas, but San Bernardino County and the city of Barstow seem to have forgotten it's value as a tourist attraction.
It started out well with ten miles of fairly good road but then the asphalt became so broken up it was a nearly impossible ride.
Like other riders before me, I took to the sandy shoulder and rode the next eight miles at 15 to 20 miles an hour, dodging the ruts carved into the sandy shoulder.
The sign saying, "I-40 East looked very welcome and I was soon running at 65 MPH on "The Forty" as local residents call it.
35 miles from Barstow I stopped at "The Route 66 Oasis," for gas.
$5.25 per gallon Premium!
Back of Route 66, I had a good ride on this section of the olod road.
After a quiet night at the Barstow KOA I picked up Route 66 at Dagget.
Here the fabled highway wound it's way through 140 miles of desert, including the Hualapai Indian Reservation.
The road was good and I had a lot of time to think about the old TV series and the history behind this well traveled route.
It  carried me to Bakersfield where I had a short jaunt on Buck Owens Boulevard, but missed the Myrle Haggard street.
The ride to Kingman went quickly as I was back on I-40.
The KOA was big and well equipped with fenced in tent camper sites with water and electricity.
The latter was needed for the electric heaterr saince the temperature had dropped to 27 degrees by morning.
The planned visit to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon was postponed as the cold spell moved down from the North.
I made a bee line for the Phoenix suburb of Surprise, Az where I found a big welcome and a warm room waiting at  my second Cousin Lynn Weaver's home.
Rear brakes on the Yamaha seemed to be fading as I rode into town.
Fading brakes are not something you want to see when you are riding through the western mountains. Especially when those brakes are stopping, not only the motorcycle, but also a sidecar and a 300 pound Mini Mate Tent camper. 
Lynn knew of a nearby Yamaha dealer where a first rate service department took the machine in, even though it was after 3pm on a Friday afternoon.
I thought the brake pads might be going out but they were good.
The crew flushed the brake lines and cylinder and I am stopping better than ever.
Fortunately for me, Lynn is a biker and knew where to take the machine and we were able to get it taken care of in a timely fashion. THANKS  LYNN!
Saturday morning Anna was up early preparing a great breakfast of sausage, eggs and toast. What great folks to take in an itinerant biker and make him feel right at home.
Mid day Saturday  I headed for Phoenix and rode I-10 around the city in the busy Saturday morning traffic.
Four lanes of fast moving traffic doesn't seeem to bother me as much as it did a few months ago.
From Jason leading me through the Monday morning Washington DC traffic, to Diana & Ilidio leading me through Miami, Joni and Stan advising on Houston traffic, and the Klebigs showing me what real traffic is, I have a lot more confidence.
All the same, it was a relief to find the road to Tucson a whole lot quieter and with less traffic except through the City of Tucson.
Scenery is fantastic. I think I have seen about every kind of mountain range the country has to offer.
Camped at Benson Arizona, 45 miles east of Tucson and decided I would stay an extra day since a cold spell that would make camping less than comfortable was moving into New Mexico and Texas.
Looking forward to a Houston visit with Joni, Gary and Stan, and to the long awaited Texas Hot Air Balloon ride.
I guess that last part depends on how much hot air those Texans can provide!
Meanwhile I discovered a nice little Lutheran church near Benson.
It was out of town a couple of miles and the name seemed right.
It was Peace In The Vally Lutheran.
Nice folks. 
The 2006 Yamaha V Star 1100cc Classic had 8,300 miles when I bought it in August 2014.
It turned over 20,550 as I left the church parking lot.
What a grand adventure this visit to our widely spread out family has been.
And what great people I have had a chance to visit.
The two minute set up of the tent camper took two hours last night as a steady stream of RVers stopped by to hear all about it..
One woman went rushing over to get her Mom, Dad and two brothers so they could see it too. They took pictures and web addresses where they could find more information.
A hard to understand gentleman from Montreal spoke both French and English while discussing camping in his RV.
He saw the 80 year old rider sign on my bike and said, "Well, how old do you think I am?"
I told him he didn't look a day older than 70 years.
He said, "Well I hope not, I'm only 61!"
I actually thought he looked older than me.
He left then, I guess he didn't want to talk camping any longer and he was moving a lot faster when he left then when he came.
People have been fantastic and the ride itself beyond spectacular.
I'll have more pictures later, after Joni shows me how to download them from that blasted new Iphone 6.

Watch for me,  I'll be in the Right Lane America.

Derl "Lonnie" Lonnquist

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Next Stop: San Jose, CA But First ...

The sun is shining but it's on the cool side here at the 9,000 foot level of Heavenly Ski Resort at Lake Tahoe.
From the cold rains of Benson and Tuscon Arizona to the snow covered mountains of Tahoe has been quite a trip.

Following a great visit at Roswell, NM and an hours long tour of the UFO Museum I headed for Carlsbad Caverns.
My Golden Passport Senior Citizen Pass worked again.
This pass which Lois and I purchased years ago, has been used at many federal parks during the intervening years.
Good Investment.
The Caverns are deep and cool.
I purchased a sweat shirt to wear on the tour.
The tour itself lasted an hour and a half and provided an in depth look at the fantastic rooms and all of the giant columns of stone which had been carved in to beautiful sculptures.
Lighting behind some of them brought out the many colors and shape.
It is beautiful, but pictures just don't do it justice. The surrounding countryside is also spectacular with boulders jutting out from every hillside and making the miles long drive into the caverns from the highway, a great drive.
The narrow, winding entry road makes a great motorcycle ride.

I filled up at the only gas station and turned on to the southbound highway.
I knew this was going to be tight on gas, even with the reserve gas can I have on the back of the sidecar.
The road to El Paso was long, with many hills, but not a lot of curves.
A good ride.
Dry and sunny, this was a good change from the days of rain I had on my way to Houston and while I was in Houston.
Seemed like the rain was following me across the south.
As the city of El Paso drew ever closer, it seemed I might make it without going to the spare gas can.
Didn't happen.
Some 20 miles out of the  city I sputtered to a stop.
It's nice to have the spare gas can, but even nicer if you never have to use it.
This time I had used up the reserve and reached for the spare.
Glad to have it too.
Sure beats having to walk to a service station that appears to be miles away.

The day before I had stopped when I saw a biker sitting under an overpass with his Harly Sportster.
Out of gas, he said, "I have been sitting here for five hours and no one would stop."
I filled his tank with two gallons of Chevron Premium and when he insisted on paying me I told him to pass it on to the next guy.
He was one happy biker when I left.

The next day as I was nearing Tuscon, the rains came.
Light at first, but enough so that I pulled off at Benson, Arizona and traded the Mini Mate camper for a room at the Days Inn.
The rain was supposed to last for two days so I booked the room for two nights.
By mid-afternoon of the second day the forecasters had added another day of heavy rain so I elected to stay for a third night.
TV News was full of stories of "Swift Water Rescues," and reports of 8 inches of rain in the mountains.
Washes, gullies and creeks were running bank full.
The sun was bright by Sunday morning and I was ready to ride.
But wait!
I was headed for Phoenix, and this was Super Bowl Sunday.
I searched the internet for highways that would give me the widest distance from the Super Bowl Mania and found it on I-8, some 40 miles south of Phoenix.
Turning onto The 8, as locals called it, I headed west away from the big game.
Great ride and signs directed me to the best Phoenix by-pass highways.

Mojave Arizona Spaceport!
That's what the sign said, and of course I had to pull off and seee what was going on out here in the middle of the desert.
The pictures are great.
Unfortunately, they are still on my old Windows Phone, and with the assistance of Mike Klebig I have progressed to I-Phone 6!
I'll upload pictures of the desert spaceport and old plane "boneyard" after I get them transferred over.

I moved on to Quartzite, Arizona.
The Desert RV Campgrounds was a big difference from the state campgrounds and the KOA's I have been frequenting along the way.
The office was closed on weekends and registration was by placing a ten dollar bill in the envelope and sliding it through a slot in the door.
The tent camping area was a wide open area of sand and gravel.
This is what they mean by "Dry Camp."
No water or electricity, just a place to camp for the night.
And not a bad night at that.
The next days ride from Blythe, California to Needles carried me through some great scenery along the Mojave Desert and Colorado River.
Two lane highway at a relaxed speed.
I have just learned something new about California.
Road signs warned trucks of a maximum 55 MPH.
Signs also warned any vehicle towing a trailer of a maximum 55 MPH speed limit.
This is great.
I'm pulling a Mini Mate tent camper.
I HAVE to drive slowly through this beautiful area.
When the speed limit is 75 and I'm driving 65 I feel guilty for impeding traffic.
But here, the State of California is ORDERING me to drive at a nice relaxing 55 MPH.
It is great and this law for towing vehicles extends across the state.
Worked well as I drove through the coastal mountain range approaching Santa Margarita.
 Suddenly the narrow two lane road began climbing via switch backs signed at 15 MPH.
Sharp turns appeared as I looked down at drop offs several hundred feet down.
No Guard Rails!
As I slowly wended my way up the mountainside the drop offs were deeper and deeper and the turns seemingly sharper and slower.
It was a GREAT ride.
But still a relief to reach the top and make my way down the back side and in to a beautiful little town called Santa Margarita.
The KOA camp was 8 miles out and I camped by Santa Margarita Lake.
It was so quiet I could hear the frogs on the shore of the lake.
What a beautiful night of camping.
From Santa Margarita I had a fantastic ride up Highway 101 to San Jose.
Mile after mile of orchards and fields of vegetables.
The countryside was alive.
Migrant workers were working the fields and the irragation water was flowing.
This is the real California.
Finding the Klebig home was easy with GPS working fine.

Stories of the many adventures at San Jose with the Klebigs will have to wait until I get off the mountain.
For now I will enjoy the Heavenly Ski Resort and Lake Tahoe.
THANKS Jordan and Vaughn.

The odometer turnbed over 19,000 miles as I pulled into the Klebig driveway.
About 10,000 miles from where I started this epic ride last Sept. 27th.
Great adventures continue as I leave next week for the return trip.

Watch for me.
I'll be in the Right Lane America.

Del "Lonnie" Lonnquist

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Chronicled in the Chronicle

Thanks to Leah Binkovitz for this great write up in the Houston Chronicle and for being a great sport about riding in the sidecar!