Ride to the Sun Reunion – Death Valley

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I left Stovepipe Wells at 5:50 am.  I had to cover 500 miles, so I promised myself I wouldn’t stop for pictures.

I had taken a bunch on the way in, anyway, including the one of the Devil’s Cornfield, above.  The cornfield lies at 150 feet below sea level, and the road keeps going downhill from there.

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The road from Stovepipe Wells heads more or less West, and straight up.  Stovepipe Wells is at sea level.  If you get there from the East, like I did, you’ll get to almost 300 feet below sea level.  I couldn’t stop imagining whales and schools of yellow fin swimming in the air over my head.

tollroad_smAnyway, once you leave Stovepipe Wells and head West just after the toll road in the pic, it’s straight up.  No curves.  Just up.  Until you hit 4500 feet above sea level.  At which point, if it’s 6:00 am, you realize how cold it is.  I stopped and put on some warm gear.

Turns out, Death Valley is actually two valleys.  Once you get up to the top of the West valley, you get to go down it.  It is blessed with a 9% grade.

You’re probably not that interested in the algorithm for calculating the amount of fuel left in a Harley’s gas tank, but to give you a rough idea, when I hit the top of the ridge between the valleys, my gauge indicated 72 miles left in the tank.  Five miles later, when I hit the bottom of the second valley, I magically had 113 miles worth of fuel.

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The road leading out of the second valley is a sportbiker’s dream.  Beautiful curves.  But I was distracted by the vistas.  The sun was peeking over the East ridge, lighting up just pieces of the landscape around me, leaving others dark.  To make it even more interesting for somebody who hadn’t sworn off photography for the day, the sky to the West was dark grey.  So the sun lit up the desert in front of me, making the Joshua trees pop.  It was gorgeous.

I wasn’t able to post last night because here, in Silicon Valley, the wifi is slower than in the middle of Nowhere, Utah.  The farmers in Wenatchee ship their best apples to other states, where they’re more precious.  I suppose Silicon Valley exports most of the broadband it grows, too.

Total distance 524 miles, including about 30 extra because somebody missed a turn.  Elapsed time: 11 hours.  Will post more about Zion and other parts of the trip when I can find some bandwidth.

GiG

Ride to the Sun Reunion: Tropic, Utah

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Day Two.

380 miles.

300 of it into some of the strongest headwinds I’ve faced yet.

After 6 hours my neck, shoulders, and forearms were burning.  Tough riding conditions have a way of making me reflect …

It was late afternoon and hot in Nebraska. I was baked, parched, burned, annoyed, and worn out.  I pulled off the road at an intersection of two country roads, mine going North-South, the other one East-West.  I took off my helmet and gloves, and shed my jacket.  I had one bottle of water left, and I was going to slowly pour it over my head and let it run down my chest and back, down my pants, and into my boots.  Biker air conditioning.

vulture2_smWhile I was unscrewing the bottle cap, a black chopper with a long haired biker wearing black leathers and carrying only a round day pack on the rear fender roared past me, heading West into the sun.  He cast a perfect silhouette, stretched forks, long hair trailing behind, and a slouch that would make a vulture proud.

It was a memorable motorcycle moment.

To have one, everything has to be right.  The bike, the weather, the road, you.  Mostly you.  If you’re not right, the moment goes right past you.  And you won’t even know you missed it.

It only happens to me on a Harley.

I still remember where I was sitting when they brought in the smooth talking new management guy to tell us that, henceforth, there would be no more problems at Sun.  Only opportunities.  I had to bite my lip so I wouldn’t squeak from the back of the room …

Houston, we have an opportunity.

Today’s buzzword, and I hope it’s yesterday’s buzzword soon, is passion.  Management wants us to be passionate about our work.  Sure.  Passion is a powerful motivator.  While it lasts.

Sorry boss, I lost my passion for build 12.  I’ve got a thing for ham radios, now.

I’ll leave passion for the bedroom or perhaps the garage, and take old-fashioned reliability to the office.  Which means that plenty of the time work is going to feel like anything but passion.  That’s why they called it work in the first place, in case some of you young punks were wondering.

And so it comes to pass that in a work environment, sooner or later the boss will ask me something dumb like why my performance evaluation isn’t done and all I’ll want to do deep in my soul is lift him by his lapels and growl straight into his face, “Because I don’t give a shit!”

Instead, I’ll tell him I’ll get right on it.  Like I always do.  Because I have a family.  I’ll do it day in and day out.  Week after week.  Month after month. Over the years, all that restraint?  It shrivels my soul.  After enough years, I want to scream.

Harley_fishtailsBMW’s, Hondas, Triumphs, and the others, they are fine motorcycles. But Harleys are the proverbial Middle Finger to the Man.  They are some of the slowest motorcycles made, the heaviest, the poorest handling.  Yet  with a defiance that gives me solace, they claim to be Number One.  When the industry demands performance, they deliver blinding chrome.  When the pundits vilify their 19th century engineering, they equip their bikes with hand-stitched leather seats.  And when sportbikers mock them for going too slow around corners, Harlistas drop the suspension even lower, add apes, and install fishtails.

Harleys are my scream.  That long-haired black rider on the blacked-out chopper, he’s my Tyler Durden.

Top photo: Linda Lu at Red Canyon
Middle photo: sculpture from roof of scrap metal junkyard in Cortez
Bottom photo: custom Softail Heritage Classic courtesy of hotbikeweb.

GiG

Ride to the Sun Reunion – Cortez, Colorado

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The Rockies were uncharacteristically hazy today, so I couldn’t get any clear pics.  This is the fence that runs along Route 160 on the West side of Wolfe Creek Pass.  Temps were warm, between 60-80, but there was a stiff wind coming from the Southwest.  Linda Lu did fine.  The bag-on-the-fender hack held up.

The friendly folks at the White Eagle Inn in Cortez, Colorado warned me to stay away from Monument Valley.  The big wind swept a lot of dust onto the road, and it’s deep in some spots.  I rode through a dust storm just South of the Great Sand Dunes National Monument a few years ago.  Not a lot of fun.  Neither is fishtailing on a road covered in several inches of dust.  So I’ll stick to Northern Arizona.

Here’s another pic of the San Juans.  I tried removing the telephone pole from the picture, but it was too heavy and stuck too deep in the ground.

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Total distance: 380 miles.  Elapsed time, including stops to eat and chat with the locals: 9 hours.

GiG