Leaving Ft. Smith, AR this morning and entering a one lane construction zone tires screeching behind me followed by burnt rubber smoke flowing forward past me. Immediately to my right driver a small car passing in the dirt shoulder. Uh oh, near miss again. Thank you Father for not taking me; you can take me whenever you see fit, yet thank you for reminding me how precious
life is.

Yosemite and Tioga Pass: Day 13

I wanted to visit Yosemite Valley for one reason; Half Dome. Half Dome, pictured above, is a granite slice of pie cut to serve by glacier. Yosemite Valley contains world class waterfalls, massive towering structures of rock such as El Capitan, redwoods, meadows, wildlife, and a roaring river competing with boulders the size of apartment buildings. People visit Yosemite from around the world to live for a bit in nature’s majesty. I visited Yosemite because I have a crush on Half Dome. My eyes and heart feasted on HD’s supple yet elegant shape, pictures were taken and it was time to head out and up and around Yosemite Valley via Rt. 120, towards and along Tioga Pass; upwards to @ 10,000 ft and out the other side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the western side of Mono Lake.

**Please stay tuned

A Picture Speaks Louder Than Words?

I remember a saying about picture having an impact on words. Is it that a picture speaks louder than words or that a thousand words create pictures in the mind? A picture is worth a thousand words? Maybe it’s better to have a picture in mind rather than two pictures in a bush. Which came first, the picture or the word(s)?

The ride today from Monterey to Mariposa was visually captivating. We rode through wine, cattle, and orchard country backdropped by golden hills and supplemented with miles and miles of 14 carat fields of grain. Motoring happily over the coastal hills into the mid-state flatlands we ate breakfast at the Cafe Rose in Hollister, CA. I asked the waitress how it was that some fact about Hollister pestered my memory. “Well” she said with a smile, “It might be because Hollister is the town first terrorized by motorcycle riders back in the day. Everybody was truly having fun but things got out of hand.” “I’ll say”, I didn’t say. This was the town of the event memorialized by the movie, “The Wild Ones”, starring Marlon Brando. Hollister is also the town that certain motorcycle clubs visited again to enhance the past memory; and I think I read that enhancement indeed took place and made the news throughout the land. The waitress gave me a flyer promoting, “The Hollister Rally; July 5th and 6th. The Birthplace of the American Biker!” Say, will this rally be sort of like Daytona Bike Week or the Sturgis Rally? “Honey, those events are Hollister wannabe’s!” DANG!!

The sidewinds started just outside Hollister and judging by the bent trees, helmet strap scab, and stiff neck I mark ’em at 30-40 mph constant velocity. The dust pulled up by farm tractors stung my face and went up my nose and I am high torque sneezing. I am tired and soft of mind. I know, I know…

I apologize for being shallow with words regarding my ride on Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway – El Camino Real. Riding the coast yesterday was a fine slice of Heaven and a tiny bit of the other place. The road and cliffs, vistas and bridges and twists and turns were a seven course meal for the senses; the Pacific Ocean with white capped depths and hues of blues was the main course. 50-70 mph gust’ added spice and fright. At one stop my bike was pulling off the kickstand.

Enjoy the pictures as they tell it better than I can.

Just Like That: Day 8 and 9 Back Update

We left Victorville, CA on Saturday afternoon after getting the bikes shipshape at the Victorville Harley dealer. The previous day several folks at the dealership recommended a stay at the GreenTree Hotel. Some had stayed there before and some had danced at the lounge and eaten at the restaurant. Oh yes, they said, It’s a nice place and I’ve never begun itching the morning after! The GreenTree Hotel and Lounge is a large multi-winged overpriced dump. I felt like an uninvited cockroach. I usually ask local merchants how this or that hotel accommodates and I finally caught on when the waitress at the diner or the lady in the clothing department advised, “I’ve stayed there a couple times and it seemed to be ok.”?

Traveling across the Mohave was fascinating. Not long after we crossed the Colorado River I began seeing cactus type little trees that I later learned were Joshua Trees. Wikipedia told me that Joshua Trees were identifying markers for the Mohave Desert. The Mohave has other small plants scattered on the ground and they are seen as far as you can see until your eyes run into the base of a mountain or a large tan bald spot, way out there, with no plants on the ground. The rock formations and mountains appear burnt. Burnt up to a crisp rocks and mountains that threatened to eat my bike and me and burp us out in puffs of black nasty smoke. I spent my time at 80 mph looking back and forth for Gila monsters, rattlesnakes, and the incredible 50 Ft. Colossal one eyed loinclothed man that was created in the Mojave during 1950’s atomic testing. Word has it he was captured and offered live cattle for meals but he threw the cattle down and pouted because the beef was so tough and well done. Riding into Newberry Springs I started noticing black rock again, lava flows! Soon, far to my left and oozing out of a black and red canyon was what appeared to be a glacier like lava flow. I love witnessing these wonders of geology and I realized I was seeing these shapes, flows, and contortions as if they were happening before my eyes. I could ditch TV and be entranced and entertained watching this landscape instead. Again I checked with Wiki and learned that all of the area around Newberry Springs and Barstow were lava flows and spews. I yearn to visit craters and locations that produce these rivers of fire and brimstone.

Heading south from Victorville on I-15 we descended steeply to the base of the San Bernandino Mountains, through the pass, onto US 210 (N) south of Pasadena and headed north towards LA and the San Fernando Valley. As I eased onto 210 I was struck with terror. All 5-6 lanes were heavy with vehicles hammering 75-85 mph. We eased far left into the HOV lane because it was legal and lighter yet proved to be aggressive, fast, and with uneven paving. My heart was racing and I looked for a slower safer place to be. Far to my right was what should have been the slow lane and the cars over there were pounding it faster than I was. Oh well, I’ll stick where I am for the next 20-30 miles. The shoulder to my left became a concrete wall at the edge of the lane and I reminded myself to breath. I mentioned to Gene prior to leaving Victorville that we should effort to keep it safe and slow and just saunter on in. My eyes were glued to the road and to that wall while scanning behind and to my right. A deep screech of brakes entered the right rear of my mind while an instinctive glance into my right mirror showed the front left red fender angled @ 6 inches from and towards my rear right side. I gunned it forward and snapped my head back to watch the red car overreact (thank you Father) and swerve right three lanes over. Huh! WHAT?!?! Did that just happen?? My mind went blank and I watched the red car pass me two lanes over and then move again into the lane to my right, ahead of me. I rode on for a couple of miles a bit lightheaded, still tailing the red car. I remembered I don’t share a two step without at least a nod of the head. I sped up next to the car and looked at the driver and he looked at me and waved an apology. I nodded my head and sped forward. He made a mistake in judgement and almost wrecked me at 80 mph. My heart told me he felt bad and was probably more frightened than I was. We were both blessed and spared by Grace. I’ve never known the feeling of being gone in the blink of an eye; just like that.

You CAN Go Home Again

Special Note:
I wish to thank the couple that have lived in the home in Burbank, CA where I spent my childhood from 1956 to 1966, prior to moving to Marietta, GA. Endi and Dawn were gracious loving hosts for over an hour and I said goodbye to them having added two family members. They will always reside in my heart. Dawn’s parents moved into the house in 1968 and handed the house down to Dawn. Forty eight years have past since my last visit here and I have dreamt about the house and hills, flowers and fruit trees, and the enchantment and magic of childhood for these many years. I was apprehensive about visiting the house and neighborhood; my elementary school and junior high. What ghosts might I find? What memories were myth, fiction, etc. The house was built in the 1930’s during the urban sprawl throughout LA and into the San Fernando Valley, the growth I imagine a result of the Great Depression and the exodus of families devastated by the drought and dust storms in the wheat belts of Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas, Kansas, and Nebraska. All of the folks traveling via Rt. 66 to the promises and agricultural richness of California.

We moved from Arkansas when I was 3 and lived in Tulsa for a year as Dad took a job with Douglas Aircraft in Tulsa and a year later Dad took a job with Lockheed in Burbank, CA. We loaded up the truck and moved to Californy via the same Rt. 66 when I was 4. In 1966, by my best recollection, my Dad came home one night and told me that mom and I were flying out the next day to Marietta, GA where he had been transferred and we would now live. Adventure @2300 mile away! Uh, where and what is Georgia?
The next day I checked out of John Muir Jr. HS, saying so long to my pals with a wink and a hitchhikers thumb swing and that night mom and I landed on the airstrip at Dobbins/Lockheed in Marietta. Just like that…I was gone and my childhood, best pals, beaches deserts mountains church playgrounds sports and sense of place were gone too, forever done and over.

My visit to my childhood home, with Endi, Dawn, and I sharing memories and absorbing the unchanged essence of the house, neighborhood, schools, city, apricot-orange-tangerine-plum-qumquat tree elixir opened the gates and components of my spirit and soul creating an alchemy of ecstasy within me resulting in a climax of CLOSURE. Happiness, joy, fulfillment, gratitude, love and an inner warmth I never knew was missing. I wrote Dianne last night that other than the day we got married and the days Chelsea and Elise were born yesterday was one of my happiest/fullfilling days during the last 48 years. The circle has been completed and unbroken. Thank you God for your mercy and miraculous gifts, thank you for making me whole, and thank you Endi and Dawn for inviting me over for a steak dinner.

Are Buttes Eroded Mountains?

Traveling though New Mexico as a young boy I was enchanted by the rapid changes of landscape. The ground and the rocks and buttes were constantly changing colors and shapes and riding through the changes are mystifying and enchanting, a Super E ticket day long ride. I used to think the flat top hills were mountains that had eroded away, the wind carrying away their tops because they weren’t strong enough. They probably had weak mountain roots unlike the mighty Sierra Nevada roots which reached hundreds of miles into the earth. The Sierra Nevada’s and the Rocky Mountain’s will never have flat tops! Today I began thinking that the buttes and the rocky hills were actually what was left of what used to be and the ground I rode on was what remained after eons of erosion. The hills and buttes were a lot stronger than I thought.

Riding @30 miles out from Grant, NM large black rocks began rising through the ground and then began expanding on the surface in ridges, clumps, and…flows? Nah, this was oxidized iron rich rock or maybe even badly tarnished copper ore type rocks! There’s that flow again and an angry cracking shape trying to cover the ground. The road sign said NM Visitors Center next exit and I rode to the center. It is an elegant visitors center well off the road and as I parked there was black lava in the landscaping and several large black lava boulders scattered about. Lava! I asked one of the staff members if the black rock I had been seeing was lava and he acknowledged proudly that it was. “If you take this route 53 to the south and back up to Arizona you will be on one or two of our largest lava mesa’s, and from those spots you will be able to see 9 of our ancient volcano craters. Hundreds of square miles of this area are covered by lava fields.” Oh man, New Mexico has it’s beauties and mysteries and sights and smells and brother Raven seems to be every where. I want to explore this place forever.

I pulled into the Flying J truck stop in Grants to use the restroom, fill up, and have a cup of coffee. I was feeling weak and a bit dizzy. I learned we were @6000 ft elevation and I understood my dizziness. I walked out the door with my coffee and passed a fellow traveler, “How’re you doin’ sir?” “I could be a lot better!” “What’s the matter?” “Well, my wife has leukemia and we were at a hospital in Albuquerque and they didn’t take our insurance so that was $2400.00 out of pocket. Now we’re trying to get to a hospital in Arizona that does take our insurance but I’m about tapped out.” “I’m sorry to hear that, sir. I hope things get better!” “Well, somethings got to give.” I waked over to the ice machine and checked my phone for any messages from Gene; uh oh. Gene’s text: “I’m having a bit of your service trouble. I’m at Albuquerque Harley Davidson, my shifter started loosening up so they’re taking a look at it. I’ll be about 1.5 hours late into Gallup.” My heart sank. My service time at HD Oklahoma City and again at HD Amarillo, TX had stressed me out and made me feel bad. I hoped Gene wouldn’t have the feelings of desperation and strandedness I had felt. We texted back and forth a bit and I was noticing the man and his wife sitting at the pump in their older Winnebago. Uh oh again. She looked thin and he looked frantic. I walked over to talk to the traveler and we had a nice chat. I asked if he’d been able to get enough fuel and he advised he had a little but not much. His wife was very thin as was her hair. We talked about options and resourcefulness and I bid him farewell. As I was walking away his wife tried to yell at me and said I wasn’t leaving that easy. I walked around to her side and she opened her door and hugged me, saying she had ridden bikes before. I hugged her back, kissed her cheek saying, “Take care, Dear”. I walked back to my bike and started crying.

It came to mind as we left Springdale, AR Sunday morning that @55 years ago my parents, sisters, and I were leaving to move to Tulsa and one year later, to California. This trip is another signal that the many circles of my life are closing or completing and I welcome these completions with gratitude and lumps in my throat. I get to take the journey again that began so many changes in my life; always saying goodbye to loved ones and moving towards new adventures, experiences, and new loved ones. From that first move in @ 1956 began 10 yearly cycles of vacations traveling back and forth from Burbank, CA to Springdale along the road called Rt. 66. As a child I was enchanted by the deserts of California, Arizona, and New Mexico because of the beauty and mystery. I would look across the terrain of nothingness and my eyes would see earth formations and transitions that called to me to be there, no there, where no other man or boy had dared set foot. Even today as I rode into New Mexico I claimed the first butte I saw as mine; I must climb to the top of it! I saw brother Raven as I crossed the border and he was on my right in a scrubby tree, watching. The raven is a large magnificent bird compared to the common crow and ravens soar, crows never do.

I loved driving through Oklahoma and Texas too as they and their occupants are tough yet loving folks. I pulled off for gas in western Oklahoma today and struggled to maneuver the bike with its loosened handlebars up the gravel hill to the gas pumps. I noticed the pumps didn’t take credit cards and then noticed the man sitting in his truck bed filling up an accessory tank of gas. When I turned the engined off he offered to trade tanks to fill and he had a smile that said welcome home. We chatted for awhile and I felt like we had been friends for most of our lives. He was preparing to sell 100 momma cows in order to make things meet and he advised they had been in a draught for two to three years. No crops, no water, little feed or water for the cattle and he said it was tough for those that had nothing else.

I love this land. My heart is in this part of the country all the way to the Pacific, ‘always has been. Big skies, big hearts, big love, and big Ravens. Big big gratitude.

Ape Hanger Anger

Two weeks ago I ordered 10 inch ape hanger handle bars for my bike along with the 73 inch hydraulic clutch cable needed for the extra length. The current handle bars sit low and wide for my reach and cause me to ride straight armed, a position leading me into early fatigue and soreness in the neck. I could manly this out for @5,000 miles but I’d rather not. I ordered these things from a local HD dealer. The ape hangers are in stock but I haven’t seen the clutch cable and all I get when I call inquiring about the clutch cable eta is, “It’ll be here in a couple of days.” I’ve had enough of this ping pong communication fiction spit swappin’ via the phone and I drove up to the dealer to settle the matter in person. After I arrived at the dealer and parked the car I began rubbing my eyes and poking my fingers into the eyeball to make sure it looked like I’d been crying. I walked in and asked for the Parts Manager. He found me checking my eyes in a chrome slip-on exhaust; my eyes looked like red slits above a huge nose. The nice gentleman introduced himself as Stan; he’d just been there a week and was still putting out fires. He asked me if the pollen had been messing with my eyes. I replied, “Not really. Now look here Stan, I ordered this 73 inch clutch cable about two weeks ago to match up to the 10 inch ape hangers that I’m getting so I’ll be more comfortable when I leave in just 10 days to ride cross country and see America with my pal. Y’all keep giving me the run around and it’s about to make me a nervous wreck ‘cause I don’t want to ride my Harley in pain around the world like I was sitting on a café racer! Y’all also tell me there’s no other handlebar option for comfort other than the 10 inch ape hangers!” I’d worked myself into a true tear-fest and Stan offered me a shop towel. Stan consoled, “Jeff, you call me tomorrow @3pm and I’ll have this all sorted out!” I called Stan today, April 29, 2013, @ 3pm and he advised me that the clutch cable vendor had never gotten the fax order. I heard train horns blowing out of my ears. “So Stan, did you order that cable and have it expedited?” “Yep, sure did, it’ll be here in a couple of days.”