29 November 2013

Pet Friendly!

When you think/thought of retiring, is/was TRAVEL big on your "Bucket List"?
It was on ours. We had visions of taking off at a moment's notice to attend some festival, celebrating the return of Starlings to Ft. Campbell, KY, for instance. (That's an inside joke right there, doncha know!)

So here we are-
Healthy enough.
Prosperous enough.
And we have more than enough machines... both two wheeled, and four.

But there's a small "fly in the ointment"...
We have this furry, black, 12-pound daughter. Part of the reason we drove straight-thru from Destin to Phoenix early this month was because we didn't want to deal with the worry of leaving Lucy in her bed in the truck while we slept in a warm, comfortable motel bed.
(Get caught sneaking her into many motels and it can get VERY expen$ive in a hurry.)
So we drove 1700+ miles, 25 hours, stopping only to eat, "rest", and refuel, so that Lucy wouldn't be forced to sleep in the cold truck.

While in Arizona, friend Max opened my eyes...
All ya gotta do is type "Pet friendly motels" into a search engine and worries about animal abuse disappear!
Most "Drury" and "La Quinta" Inns are pet friendly... at NO extra cost.
We stayed at a Ramada Inn in El Paso with Lucy sharing the Queen-size bed with us for just an additional ten dollar charge, thanks to a simple internet search.

We still have to make arrangements for her if we, as we dreamed, want to take advantage of cheap deals on "last minute" cruises, or if we want to go on a long flight.
But we now have a weight lifted off our shoulders when we're "trucking" across the U.S. with a bike in the bed of the Cummins-powered Ram.

And that's worth more than you might think to us.
Thanks Max.

25 November 2013

Destin-Gilbert-El Paso-Terrell-Home

Well, it's been an eventful few weeks.
When we departed Destin at 0900 Friday morning I figured we'd drive about halfway, then stop and spend the night. With another twelve hours or so of driving, that would have put us arriving at my son's house late Saturday night. We'd have had enough time for hugs and a little chit-chat before heading for bed.
My wife is normally a reluctant traveler, so I figured that was the way things would unfold.

We had Cary's Yamaha 650 VStar in the bed of the Ram truck. Cleaned and polished for delivery, I was pleased to depart with clear skies and a good forecast across our entire route. We crossed the Florida-Alabama State line with no traffic delays, dived beneath the bay at Mobile, then drove into Louisiana, my first time in that State since I drove from Mineral Wells, TX to Savannah, Ga. to start my next leg of ARMY flight school in 1968.

I was amazed, crossing the 18.2 mile long bridge at the Atchafalaya basin.
I was somewhat dismayed, seeing the "mile-marker 880" sign as the "Welcome to Texas" sign passed by.
Yep. But the saving grace is that Texas roads are mostly good, with relatively light traffic, and some of the speed limit signs have the number "80" on them. (Even some of the desert two-lane roads have 75 mph speed limits!)

Sara Jean surprised me. As the sun receded below the horizon she asked, "If we drove straight through, what time would we arrive?"
"About Noon their time. How do you feel about that?"
"Let's do it."

I drove until midnight while she napped. When my eyes started feeling like they were filled with gravel, she took over while I slept and gave Lucy a lap to curl up on.
Like a real trooper, she drove until 0430, (through a few rain showers that ruined all my cleaning/polishing work) where, just West of El Paso, we stopped at an IHOP for breakfast. When we got back on the road the sun was just brightening the Eastern sky and "Carmen the Garmin" said we had another six hours of road to cover.

Las Cruces. Deming. Lordsburg. Willcox. Tucson. We clicked 'em off and arrived at our son's new home in Gilbert, AZ Saturday at 1230.
He was moved in, but not yet organized. We spent the next few days getting furniture in its proper place, boxes unloaded and out of the way, and window coverings changed/improved.
Many hands make light work... in short order the place looked wonderful.

Cary came Sunday afternoon to pick up his Yamaha.
He seemed pleased with it. I was pleased to see him ride off with a smile on his face. Three nice things happened with this bike...
In selling it, the previous owner got money she needed for medical testing. I got to ride it a few miles to learn its characteristics, (which are VERY nice for a 650cc machine), and Cary got a bike that turns heads and gets compliments from everyone who sees it.
Good deals all around.

I have a few friends in the Phoenix area. In addition to Cary, there's a female High School chum of mine who Winters in Mesa. Her hubby "Max" has a nice Harley dresser, and had agreed that it would be nice to ride when we came to Arizona. I called and we agreed to ride on Wednesday. When I got "Roswell" the Suzuki out of Big Bubba's garage I got a surprise... no rear brake pressure.
Now, the front brake on this sportbike is powerful enough to lift the rear wheel off the ground in a "stoppie", so I wasn't worried about stopping power. But I obviously didn't want to ride longer than it would take to fix the problem, so I called Max and he said he had the necessary tools to bleed the rear brake to see if that would fix the problem. I left Wednesday morning, stopped by "Autozone" to buy a can of DOT 3/4 brake fluid, and continued to Max and Kathy's place in the mountain foothills of Northeast Mesa.

In 30 minutes we had the brake problem resolved.
In 45 minutes we were on the road, heading uphill to Tortilla Flat, where, after 30 minutes or so of climbing and switchbacks, we stopped and had lunch. We then continued up the mountain until pavement changed to gravel, where we stopped to take a look around.
Breathtaking. (And cool enough to make me glad I was wearing my Belstaff jacket.)
We then rode back down the mountain, waved bye-bye to one another at Apache Junction, and went to our respective digs.

Cary had mentioned we could take a nice ride the following Saturday.
I asked Max if he'd like to come along and he answered affirmatively.
I was surprised when I arrived at the designated place/time Saturday morning to see those two standing with another biker. I introduced myself and met "Nick", and cast an eye upon his Honda "Fury"...
Well worn with battle scars, but still a nice machine.

A Harley, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Honda departed from "Whataburger" at about 10 A.M. headed for Wickenburg, Arizona. Arizona roads are mostly smooth and well cared for. Most of this leg was accomplished at 75 mph. We stopped in Wickenburg for a little breakfast, then bade Nick farewell. He returned to Phoenix as we remaining three departed to climb our way to Prescott.

There is simply no way to describe this ride.
There are places where you can look down the mountain and see where you've made three switchbacks in order to climb the side of the hill. Some turns cannot be negotiated at speeds higher than about 15 mph.
Breathtaking views? That description does it NO justice. You have to see it to believe it!

Prescott is a neat place... kinda tourist-y.
At one stop Cary told me, "We'll be turning right at the next block."
I nodded my head, then, distracted by auto and pedestrian traffic all around, promptly forgot his warning. At the next stop he turned right, as he had warned. I looked up just in time to realize I was gonna T-Bone him on his new-to-him Yamaha, grabbed a heaping handful of that powerful front brake, and at about 5 mph, crossed a painted white line. The ensuing front-wheel wipeout put bike and rider on the pavement instantly. My ankle was twisted beneath the bike. The pain was about as intense as any I have felt in my life.
I was embarrassed. (Damn Sportbike brakes!)
I jumped up, hobbled around, flipped the kickstand down, then hoisted the bike onto the stand.
Two or three folks then arrived asking, "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm okay. Just embarrassed as heck" I lied. My ankle was killing me.
We rode a block or so to a bar, and stopped to take a breath and have a soda.
Walking was more painful than being on the bike.
Cary asked, "Do you want to go home from here or continue to 'Jerome'?"
Macho took over. I didn't come this far to wimp out. We finished our sodas and rode on.

I'm glad we did.
In spite of my pain, this ride was more extraordinary than the first leg.
I had never heard of Jerome, AZ, but I promise you this...
I WILL go back there!
Google it. (Arizona highway 89A.)

At the end of the day I had ridden 330 miles, about 1/3 of it with a nagging ankle.
When I got home I was fearful of removing my boot, afraid of how it would look.
It was SWOLLEN, but not black and blue.
Big Bubba wanted to take us to "Chipotle Grill". In agony with every step, I hobbled my way along and had a nice meal.
But my ankle woke me several times during the night, and was almost impossible to stand on the next morning. I had movement in every direction with it, so I'm assuming it's a severe strain, not broken.
(More than a week after the incident it is still swollen and sore, but improving by minor degrees every day.)

It was sunny and 70 degrees when we left Gilbert on Tuesday afternoon.
Six hours later in El Paso, when we stopped at a pet-friendly motel, it was 48 degrees.
It's easy to see why some folks LOVE to Winter in Phoenix.

The new-to-me Honda Valkyrie I bought was in Quitman, Texas.
We drove 9+ hours to Terrell, Texas and spent the night in a pet-friendly "La Quinta Inn", then arose to go get the big bike.
"Brad" was waiting on us. Interestingly, he too was selling his machine because he had medical problems to deal with.
His loss is our gain... the bike is BEAUTIFUL, and came with lots of extras:
Three helmets, (two of 'em wired with intercom hookups), owner's manual, service manual, bike cover, four quarts of oil and a filter for the next oil change.
Loading this HUGE machine with a bum ankle was a little scary, but we got-r-done.
Then it was back on the road for the leg home.

Just shy of the Arkansas line, the rain started.
And continued... for hours, until we got home.
Valkyrie got a "road bath".
Cleaning it will give me a good chance to look it over and get to know its nooks and crannies.

It was 17 degrees here the other night.
Our plan is to head to Destin in time to have T-Day dinner at the "Golden Corral" there.

It has been unseasonably cold there, so jackets may be in order.
But if I've got to be chilly, looking at the surf meet the beach will help to warm my insides.

07 November 2013

Destin To Phoenix

1756 Miles.
25 Hours.

Our son has bought a new home in Phoenix. Tomorrow we depart Destin to go help him get situated in his new digs. We'll be on I-10 for the better part of two days.
One of these days I'd love to make this drive, just for the "pleasure of the drive".
One of these days.